Fiction Review: “The Blue Kind” by Kathryn Born

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kbornblueI’m likely not Kathryn Born’s intended reader. The drug novel genre leaves me cold, I’m picky when it comes to dystopian worlds, and it takes a special kind of YA book to ignite my passion. Still, even I can see that “The Blue Kind” has its moments.

A richly imagined and socially provocative debut, “The Blue Kind” centers around unreliable narrator Alison. An ungrateful immortal, she has spent eons doing drugs to dull the pain of living forever, a puzzling conceit. After an undefined period spent “Over,” Alison returns to find that conditions in Neom, a metropolis in which the laws of physics have been failing, have grown more dire. While her partner in immortality, Cory, has moved up in the drug trade’s complex hierarchy, as a woman Alison’s only hope of survival is to be “chained” to her man.

There follows an increasingly disjointed depiction of drugs, sex and people who don’t shower. Still, over the book’s short span, the reader is treated to compelling plot twists and attention-grabbing descriptions. Tantalizing hints are dropped about Cory’s mysterious origins and Alison’s inability to properly report on her own experience. Admirable attempts are made to critique patriarchy and comment on the nature of addiction.

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to care about the drug-addled, morally ambiguous characters with whom Born populates her novel. Likely, Born has made a conscious choice to turn up the volume on the baroque world of each drug trip and relegate each character’s humanity to rare moments of sobriety. If Born means to point up the sometimes repetitive, self-pitying nature of addiction, she’s accomplished her goal, however; by creating an incoherent, ever-shifting universe along with a narrator lacking introspection or the capacity for true revelation, she renders “The Blue Kind” ultimately unsatisfying. (Sarah Terez Rosenblum)

“The Blue Kind”
By Kathryn Born
Northern Illinois University Press, 184 pages, $14.95

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