Bordertown is a place for outsiders, for anyone who has ever felt ostracized. That applies to both its human inhabitants and its magical ones. We humans would call them elves, but they prefer to think of themselves as Truebloods. Runaway teenagers, artsy outsiders, hipster musicians, Harvard students, and anyone else who has ever wanted to get away usually find themselves in B-town, a city on the edge of the World and the Realm, in a place sometimes refered to as the Borderland and at other times just called the Nevernever. It's a place where neither science nor magic can be completely trusted.
"It's more progressive, complicated and adult than many other YA books, and that's a good thing."
Jumpstarting a series that began in 1986, WELCOME TO BORDERTOWN is a collection of writings from original Borderland authors, like Charles de Lint and Emma Bull, as well as newer writers who grew up as Borderland readers. Each story and poem here might be written by a different person, but the characters in them inhabit one world and frequent the same bars and bookstores. After 13 days in Bordertown, the Way has opened up again, and newcomers are arriving at full-speed. But, as these newcomers inform those already living in B-town, it's been 13 long years in the World since anyone has been able to find the Way back into Bordertown.
Newbies get drinks at the Dancing Ferret and look for their lost siblings, or they try to start new bands, or they go searching high and low to meet real-live vampires. Those who have been in Bordertown for a while go about their daily lives --- which can consist of being held captive by elf nymphomaniac seductresses, fighting with rival business owners, or arguing with their boyfriends and girlfriends.
Bordertown is a hub for fantasy lovers, and that applies to the characters in the stories as much as it does the people who will read this book. Some characters travel to Bordertown specifically because of a legend, myth or fairy tale they love, and with luck, they find the real things there in B-town.
While not all of the stories in WELCOME TO BORDERTOWN are complete hits, the collection as a whole delivers. It's more progressive, complicated and adult than many other YA books, and that's a good thing. Every writer in this anthology respects the intelligence of their teen readers and presents stories that are true to the adolescent experience. Characters deal with everything, from racial tensions (which applies to human constructions of race as well as to fights between elves and humans) to discovering their sexuality to homelessness. Both the human and magical residents of B-town come from every background imaginable --- dialogue happens in English, Spanish and Jamaican Creole; boys might kiss girls or other boys, and girls kiss boys and other girls; and the rich, the middle class and the poor can all come to Bordertown to attempt to be equals.
This is fantasy for readers who are sick of Eurocentric dragon-and-princess stories. This is fiction for those who want to find characters who are more truthful, realistic and diverse than in mainstream YA. This is the next best thing to being able to go to Bordertown yourself.
Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gómez on August 5, 2011