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09/12/2004 Entry: "Holly Black's TITHE -- Too Adult for YA Label (Rebekah)"

Tithe

I'm having a hard time deciding what I thought about this book TITHE, by Holly Black. It had a distinct style and strong voice. The female lead, Kaye, really grew on me. The book does a good job of showing grey areas and complexity in species/peoples and individuals. There are no white hats and black hats, with the most interesting and ambiguous character being the male lead, Roibon. It's a fresh take on Faerie--no pretty veneer, just straight to the heart of what are inhuman and ultimately unfathomable creatures.

Ok, so my big question is.... This is a young adult book?? There's an intense erotic S/M relationship, an adult who plans how he is going to kill people with a machine gun, and a lot of--what's a good word--debauchery. The violence is vivid and explicit (an attempted rape, gouging out an eye, pulling the wing off of a fairy and letting it flop around on the floor, etc). There's a creature that talks at length about the joy of drowning humans just to watch them thrash and fade. Maybe I haven't been reading the same YA as everyone else, but I found it jarring.

That said, I do recommend this book. It's got great ambigous characters, atmosphere and it sucked me right in. But, zhesh, shelf it in the adult section.--Rebekah

--TITHE review page
--TITHE at Amazon with the cool hardback cover
--TITHE at Amazon with the boring paperback cover

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I was reading adult books as a preteen, so I had no problems with the darkness of TITHE. I think there's tension between wanting to protect minors and letting them know the world as it really is. Don't know where that line should be. TITHE didn't cross it for me, although it did raise my eyebrows. It definitely mirrored a certain type of not-uncommon teenage experience, and I think teenagers should be allowed to work through darkness to heroism on a more accessible level than "evil darklord" versus "pure heroic village boy or girl" set-up. I think TITHE is more akin to the Grimm fairy tales in that way (i.e., in having sex and violence and the darker side of human nature.)--Preeti

The ambiguity of the characters didn't bother me (I think it's good) or the realistic potrayal of teenagers or even the sex/drugs/rock-n-roll -- it was things like the very compelling portrayal of a serial killer mentality (the kelpie) and the character of Corny, particularly his way of thinking and his relationship with the spike-cloaked faerie. TITHE begs for a sequel and I wouldn't be surprised if the main evil in it would be Corny.--Rebekah

When I talk about "sex and violence and the darker side of human nature" I refer to all the dark things in the book. I don't think disturbing characterization and deeds need to be the sole province of adult literature if the book has a moral center. That said, I was quite surprised TITHE was a young adult book, but not dismayed by the label. I remember chalking it up to teenagers being forced to deal with sophisticated issues at a younger age than ever, for good or bad. I don't remember enough about Corny to predict whether he is redeemable or not in the sequel Black is writing. Really, really looking forward to the sequel.--Preeti

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Here is an earlier news item about a TITHE sequel, which contains a link to a snippet on Holly Black's blog.

In an interview at TeenReads.Com, Holly Black says the sequel to TITHE, titled IRONSIDE, is due out in summer of 2006. "She's also working on a book set in the same world, but with a different protagonist, called VALIANT. That will be out in summer 2005."


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