Sixteen-year-old Kaye is not a typical heroine, especially for a teen fantasy novel. She is a high-school dropout who smokes, shoplifts, and drifts with her musician mother from one city to another as her mother finds jobs with different bands, always hoping for her big break. But Kaye is also compassionate, intelligent and strong.
She and her mother move back to her grandmother's house in New Jersey, and Kaye is glad to be back. Her childhood friend, Janet, still lives there, and Kaye has many happy memories of time spent there, with Janet as well as her imaginary playmates.
On her way home one night Kaye finds a wounded man in the forest. He is strange and otherworldly, and she immediately recognizes him for the faerie he is. She impulsively helps him, starting a chain of events that takes her life in an entirely unexpected direction. She discovers she is not who she believed, and that not only are her imaginary friends all too real, but they need her help. They warn her that the handsome faerie knight she saved is dangerous and unpredictable, a member of the Unseelie court. But as much as she is determined to stay away from him, their paths keep crossing, eventually leading Kaye into the faerie mound, a dark, dangerous and cruel place.
This is a gripping read, well written with words and images that convey the beauty and brutality of our world as well as the world of faerie. I particularly enjoyed her Kaye's relationship with her mother, which was sweet and anything but usual, as well as the friendship that developed between Kaye and Janet's older brother. There is humor, romance, suspense, and a very satisfying conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed this teen novel, and I'm looking forward to reading Valiant, which is another "modern faerie tale," although it appears to be a standalone, rather than a sequel.
Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black (Simon Pulse, 2002)