Liam Shea is not an ordinary teenage boy, growing up in rural Massachusetts; and not just because he has two fathers. Liam is not even a boy; he’s a fairy—literally. A fairy with glowing golden eyes, antennae, dragonfly wings sprouting between his shoulder blades, super-human strength, the power of suggestion, and a serious aversion to cold iron. That Door is a Mischief  by Alex Jeffers tells Liam’s story growing up and living in the world of humans; but because of Liam’s non-human status, this is not your typical coming-of-age story, for the adolescence of a fairy is no less tumultuous than a human’s, if somewhat more spectacular. 

The first five chapters were previously published as short stories, and deal with Liam’s life from age 15 to about 18 or so. Many of the crises Liam has to overcome will be familiar to human adolescents, but each one is minimized—or intensified—because of his fairy status. For example, “The Wild Fairy” shows Liam dealing with high school bullies, which he does by avoiding them as much as possible; their antics do not even cause him much concern, because he knows that he is physically stronger than they are, and could easily overpower them, if he chose to do so. In “The Ordinary Boy” Liam tries to initiate friendship with a human boy (one that not-so-secretly has a crush on him), even “coming out” as a fairy to him. In “The Changelings” Liam crosses over the threshold of puberty, which threatens his life (and the lives of others nearby) and he is only saved by the timely intervention of two humans who previously had been sex slaves in Fairyland. And Liam finally falls in love—with Harry, the chief bully of his youth, in “The Coward.”

For all that the first five chapters deal with Liam’s ostensible “adolescence” among humans, I should stress that this is not a YA book by any stretch of the imagination. The tone of the first five chapters is not that of a typical YA book, with its frank depiction of sexuality and especially with Liam’s amoral, non-human perspective. The final three chapters continue exploring these themes, as Liam and Harry have a non-traditional relationship and explode the idea of what constitutes a family, and (because of Liam’s near immortal lifespan) end in the far, far, future. It is almost cliché for fairy (or half-fairy) boys to be used metaphorically for gay human teens in YA literature (and Jeffers has Liam play on the double entendre himself) but the fairies of Jeffers’ Fairyland are too mercurial to be pinned down by mere human labels; although Liam does eventually bond with, and even marry, a single love interest, he is too omnisexual to be merely “gay” or even “bisexual.”

If there is an overarching theme, I think it is this: Liam, despite being an amoral, physically powerful being, is as affected by love as any human. And fairy love can be as intense as human love—perhaps more so. In the first chapter, it is not the bullies who command Liam’s attention, or even interest:  instead it is his first meeting with another fairy, one who opens a doorway to Fairyland, and Liam is overwhelmed: the sights, scents, the total absence of iron—and yet he refuses to enter, out of love for his human “father.” It is this same love for his father that causes him to downplay the bullies’ antics, and even to attempt friendship with another human boy. Love for Harry drives Liam to attempt a cross-country trip in an airplane (essentially an iron coffin for a fairy), and even to marry, divorce, and remarry Harry, and eventually, to create a memorial for him in Fairyland.

 

That Door is a Mischief
By Alex Jeffers
Lethe Press
Paperback, 9781590212660, 200 pp.
September 2014



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  • Ron Fritsch

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