School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—After 13 years of being "closed" to the outside world (and 13 years since the publication of Terri Widling's original anthologies), Bordertown has reopened to a new generation of runaways, misfits, and dreamers. This gritty metropolis sits metaphysically at the edge of the World and Realm, populated by mostly teen and 20-something humans; high- and lowborn elves; the occasional cursed human (e.g., Wolfboy); and halfies (Elf/human progeny). Widling and Kushner's "Welcome to Bordertown," the first of 22 stories, poems, and a graphic entry, immerses readers into a fully realized urban fantasy world that runs on unreliable faerie magic and erratic human technology, and pulses with sex, drugs, music, and brutal lawlessness, as a brother seeks out his missing sister and finds a community amid cursed humans and dangerous Elves. This story also sets up the themes carried throughout the collection: identity and authenticity, race and power, and the balance between wonder and naïveté. It's easy to be transported by each entry's rich details and compelling characters, but this page-turner's biggest success is in how veteran authors simultaneously address the themes through traditional fantasy tropes and current reality. Sardonic references to modern tech fads and fantasy trends abound: in Janni Lee Simner's "Crossings," two friends learn that werewolves and vampires (or sinister, opportunistic elves) do not actually make good boyfriends. Some poems are more successful than others, and the graphic story adds perhaps the least to the anthology. Nonetheless, every contribution brings something valuable and new, and readers will leave Charles de Lint's "A Tangle of Green Men," the volume's particularly heart-wrenching and beautiful last story, richer for having had the Bordertown experience, and eager for more.—Riva Pollard, Prospect Sierra Middle School, El Cerrito, CA
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2011:
"This is punk-rock, DIY fantasy, full of harsh reality and incandescent magic...a masterful anthology."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, June 2011:
"It’s easy to be transported by each entry’s rich details and compelling characters, but this page-turner’s biggest success is in how veteran authors simultaneously address the themes through traditional fantasy tropes and current reality."
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
It is amazing the number of subcultures existing within our overarching culture. The culture of this anthology is probably well loved by "goth" kids. It's the magical region between the human World and the Realm of the faeries (Elves) who prefer to be called the Truebloods. When the Way to Bordertown is open, runaways and kids looking for affirmation of hope flock there. But be careful: the elfin magic is quirky in this region and the Truebloods can be arrogant or cruel. Also know that time slows down heretwo weeks in Bordertown equate to thirteen years in the World. A number of the stories are very matter of fact about sexual encounters amongst the teen protagonists or their use of drugs. No consequences are discussed for these choices. But, for the most part, the characters are well drawn and the stories are compelling, though Cory Doctorow's "Shannon's Law" was confusing and "Fair Trade" (written by Sara Ryan and drawn by Dylan Meconis) took a second reading. And perhaps the best was saved to last: "A Tangle of Green Men," by Charles de Lint, about a young Native American who goes to Bordertown to find the way across the Realm to the land where his dead wife waits for him but instead finds a reason to live. Fantasy always opens a way to discuss life forces with kids and this collection of stories reaches out nicely to those looking for hope. The other authors are Terri Windling, considered the font of fantasy stories; Patricia A. McKillip; Catherynne M. Valente; Amal El-Mohtar; Emma Bull; Steven Brust; Alaya Dawn Johnson; Will Shetterly; Jane Yolen; Janni Lee Simner; Tim Pratt; Annette Curtis Klause; Nalo Hopkinson; Delia Sherman; Christopher Barzak, Cassandra Clare and Neil Gaiman. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
Bordertown: where the human and faerie worlds intersect, a place populated by runaways and the lost, powered by an unreliable mix of magic and technology.
Thirteen years ago, the way to this shared world was closed after four anthologies (The Essential Bordertown, 1998, etc.) and three novels (Elsewhere, 1991, etc.). Now, Kushner (one of the original contributors) and Black (who grew up reading the original tales) have reopened the way, and once again teens uncomfortable in the world—or just looking for excellent fantasy fiction—can escape to it. This is punk-rock, DIY fantasy, full of harsh reality and incandescent magic. "Noobs" will be quickly acclimated by the introductory "Bordertown Basics," an irreverent tour-guide's view with everything the visitor needs to know. Many of the stories echo with loss and discomfort; standouts include "Crossings" by Janni Lee Simner, a chilling look at the difference between dreams and reality, and "A Tangle of Green Men," Charles De Lint's heartbreaking examination of love, loss and life. Poems and songs (from Patricia A. McKillip, Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen, among others) balance the fiction, and if some of the songs don't play so great to tone-deaf readers, they still bring the importance of music home. A few stories fall a little flat, but these tiny flaws don't detract from a masterful anthology.
Here's to another generation finding comfort and inspiration on the border. (introductions, author notes) (Fantasy/anthology. 13 & up)