You know the kind of book I mean. You find it in the “Fiction & Literature” section of Barnes & Noble, and you’re confused because, hey, isn’t that a fantasy novel? Or you find it in the “Fantasy” section—except isn’t it a little too grounded in the real world to really be fantasy?
Of course, spotting these books is easier now that we can order everything online, but you still run into the problem of how to describe them. They’re fantasy, but not! They’re realistic, but only kind of! They’re urban fantasy, but don’t those usually have magical creatures of some kind—vampires or werewolves or witches or ghosts? They’re magical realism, except, let’s be honest here, magical realism is a very specific genre, and most of what we call magical realism nowadays isn’t that at all.
These books may be hard to describe, but despite this (or maybe because of it), they’re often my favorites. The ones that live in the liminal space between fantasy and reality. The ones that have just enough magic to screw everything up—or, sometimes, to set everything right again.