Kin: The Good Neighbors, Book One

Book review by
Stephanie Dunnewind, Common Sense Media
Kin: The Good Neighbors, Book One Book Poster Image
Spiderwick author's graphic novel for teen fans only.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

After Rue's mother leaves, her father just sits on the couch and doesn't go to work. Rue says "no worries" and tries to act cool about her mom's disappearance. Rue sees an alternate world populated with faeries and monsters (trolls, goblins, demons, skeleton creatures). One teen says she needs a quadruple shot of coffee because "I want my blood to run black with java." The teens break into abandoned buildings and take pictures of themselves in masks to post on the Internet. The faeries are so thin their hip bones show. Rue breaks into an apartment.

Violence

Rue's father, a professor, is arrested as a suspect for killing his wife and one of his university students. The student was strangled. A faerie describes how humans threaten them with fire or scalding water; then a scene shows a woman killed (with her dead body marked with burns) because her husband thought she was a faerie changeling. Tam drugs Rue to kidnap her. A young man steals a swanmaid's skin and makes her his sexual slave. The swanmaid and her brother make a suicide pact; an illustration shows her with a large, sharp knife.

Sex

Some nudity including a profile of Rue's mother gardening in the nude and a swanmaid sex slave shown on a bed -- private parts are covered in both cases. One of Rue's male friends tells her to "give me a big wet one. I've been told my tongue is very relaxing." Lots of skimpy attire, down to bikini tops and thong underwear. Rue and her boyfriend kiss passionately. Girls hit on a musician after a concert, putting their hands up his shirt.

Language

"Skank," "sucks," "pissed."

Consumerism

The teens go to a coffee shop.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Rue's friend drinks at a college party; Rue tells her, "Let's go, lush."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know this is for author Holly Black's teen fans, not young Spiderwick devotees. The female faeries are sexualized and idealized in the graphic novel's illustrations. Except for the wings, the faeries could moonlight as models with their tiny waists, ample bosoms, sharp cheek bones, long legs, and penchant for skimpy clothes. The novel features illustrations of nude women (angled so chests/private areas are not shown); violence (a daughter wonders if her father killed her mother); a faerie who is forced into sexual slavery; and drinking at a college party. Teens break into abandoned buildings (sometimes climbing and rappelling) and photograph themselves in masks.

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What's the story?

High-school student Rue Silver's world gets even weirder after her mother goes missing and she starts seeing strange creatures instead of people populating her hometown. When her father is arrested for the murder of a student and possibly her mother, Rue isn't sure whom to trust. Can Rue see this alternate world because she is one of "the good neighbors," or fair folk? These aren't Disney-style Tinker Bells but a group of supernatural beings who plan to make people fear them once again. It looks like Rue's grandfather is the leader -- and only she can stop him.

Is it any good?

The edgy, expressive black-and-white illustrations will attract teen readers, even if the plot doesn't always make a whole lot of sense. There are a few visual missteps, like when Rue's legs go from fishnet stockings in one frame to bare on the next page. Rue's apathetic "What, me worry?" gets a little tiresome, especially when she faces life-changing events.

Still, scenes like a coffee shop populated by demons and shots of humor (Rue's friend says he believes her because "This is the part in the movie where that guy says, 'Zombies? What zombies?' just before they eat his brains. I don't want to be that guy.'") will engage teens exploring their identities. "A lot of kids have this fantasy that secretly they're really the princess of a foreign country," Rue notes when she discovers her mother's heritage. "Turns out that pretty much sucks."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Rue's "no worries" approach to life. Do teens identify with this strategy? Families can also talk about the depiction of female faeries: Do teens agree that being so thin is attractive? Is this a realistic expectation for even supernatural girls and women to look?

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