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Books Sun Jan 13 2013

Book Review: "The Blue Kind" by Kathryn Born

images.jpgKathryn Born's The Blue Kind begins with the main character, Alison, describing the city Neom, a place that has been taken over by drugs, or "mugs," as the character calls them. The drug pushers are taking over, and newer, harder drugs are entering the market. Everyone is high all the time, smoking, popping, pushing, and snorting every drug out there. The hipsters live in the part of Neom called Runaway Village where we find Alison, her husband Cory, and friend Ray living in an abandoned theater. Alison battles with her broken relationship with her husband and tries to escape from the rising drug lord, Atom, all the while drifting in and out of a drug haze that alters her memory.

Kathryn Born does not disappoint with her descriptions. I can vividly see the city of Neom as I'm reading the novel. Every part of the world that Born has created is beautifully colored in and etched out to the enth degree. Even the drugs are described in detail to the extent that you can almost see the characters getting high. She writes:

"Missy and Kota knick each other's legs with a straight razor, and then twist the cap off the bottle that looks like nail polish. Each girl brushes some mustard-colored liquid onto the cuts on their legs. They clean off the blade and hand it to Cory, and already they are blinking slowly, holding hands."

While the details are plentiful, the dialogue is lacking. The characters never develop their own voices, making it difficult to tell who is speaking. The dialogue has a teenage-like quality to it. I can't count how many times the word "like" is used, and the dialogue overall doesn't have much depth to it. While the dialogue may have been an active choice by Born, it takes away from the characters and is distracting from the story.

There are a lot of different themes in this novel, almost too many. Memory, codependence, drug addiction, and immortality get lost within each other. The chapters are short and as soon as new or important information is mentioned that would propel the story and characters forward, it abruptly ends. This occurs up until the very end making it hard for the story to move forward, and even harder to grasp onto what the characters are saying. I find myself wondering why certain pieces of information are offered at alll; some details of Alison's past are mentioned and never revisited. Some of this happens while the character is getting high and is chalked up to a drug-related memory problem. But, because the characters are constantly forgetting everything, it is hard to latch onto anything, making the storyline motionless.

Overall, this novel is very creative and the details make it come to life. But, there are some nagging issues with the dialogue and storyline that obscure themes and miss out on opportunity to expand on them. Pick up this science fiction novel for a short read at The University of Chicago Press.

Kathryn Born will be launching The Blue Kind along with Joseph G. Raymond, Inside the Whale: A Novel in Verse, and Raymond Richard, Book of Raymond: A Journey from Prison to Praise and Poetry this Tuesday, Jan 15 @7:30pm at Revolution Brewing, 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave.

 
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Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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