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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sometimes Normal Is So Overrated ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Evie may be the only 16-year-old on the planet who actually wants to go to high school. She'd give anything to experience slurping chocolate milk in a cafeteria, hanging out by her locker, and dolling herself up for prom. She'd give anything for that kind of normalcy. Safe, predictable normalcy. There's nothing normal about the life she lives every day. Paranormal, yes. Normal, normal - not so much.

Orphaned as a child, Evie's been raised at the Center, which serves as headquarters for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. With a rare gift (as in, she's the only person on Earth with the ability) to see through the glamours' of paranormals, she's invaluable to IPCA, which seeks to neutralize any creature that might pose a threat to human safety. Armed with her pink Tazer, Evie's job is to bag and tag. It's a rush, but so demanding that her availability cannot be compromised by anything as mundane as school or fraternization with other teenagers. She's been facing paranormals since she was eight - it's all getting a little old.

Until paranormals start dying. Some brutal force is killing them in a way that leaves no mark, no clues, no trace. Then, Evie brings in a shapeshifter who possesses powers she's never before encountered. Is he the murderer? He seems harmless. Not only is Lend around her age, but he's decidedly hot - even under the glamours he wears. Despite warnings from her superiors, Evie finds she can't stay away from Lend's cell. She's there to get answers, sure (Who is Lend? Where does he come from? What does he want from IPCA?); a little flirting along the way won't hurt anybody, right? Although Lend remains stubbornly mute on the subject of his mission, he shocks Evie by reciting lines from a chilling faerie prophecy that seems to be talking about her. Who is this guy? Why is she so drawn to him? Most importantly, can he be trusted?

When a raid on IPCA sends everyone scurrying, it's up to Evie to find and eliminate the killer. But, tracking down a monster is one thing, neutralizing it is quite another. Especially when the murderer wears an all too familiar face. And carries the answers to all the questions Evie's ever asked about herself. Suddenly, the world Evie's always known makes less sense than ever. Can she face down the creature that's terrorizing paranormals? Does she even want to?

Paranormalcy, a debut novel by Kiersten White, is a fun, upbeat take on the whole paranormal romance thing. It's got some definite Twilight tendencies (albeit with a little more adult supervision), but not enough to be truly annoying. Although it's not all that original, the story has flashes of uniqueness, particularly with characters like Lish and Cresseda. I also like that Evie knows about her powers from the get-go, which allows the story to move along without our heroine having to go through the whole shock-denial-acceptance thing. Quick pacing keeps the tale racing along, making for a fast, enjoyable read.

My big problem with Paranormalcy is this: I never felt any real sizzle between the characters. I'm not just talking about romance, I'm also talking about basic warmth/comfort between people who are supposed to be important to each other. For instance, Evie says several times how much Raquel means to her, but their relationship never feels like a close one. Likewise, when a certain cast member dies, I really didn't feel anything because, although Evie and the deceased were supposed to be tight, I didn't feel it at all. This lack, along with some bumbling prose, bugged me throughout the book.

All in all, though, I like Paranormalcy. It's lighter than a lot of YA paranormals, although it still addresses some interesting concepts, like souls recognizing souls and creatures using their agency to choose to behave against their natural (or unnatural) tendencies. I liked its lightheartedness, enjoyed the quick pacing, and appreciated the more innocent nature of the romance between the book's main characters. To keep me reading the trilogy, White's going to have to step up the character development big time. I wouldn't mind if she polished up the writing a bit either. Paranormalcy has so much potential - I'm anxious to see if the series can reach it.

(Readalikes: definitely a little Twilight-y; also reminds me a teensy bit of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for fantasy violence and vague references to sex

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Paranormalcy from the generous folks at HarperTeen. Thank you!


  1. Sounds like an interesting premise, but I'm pretty sure the writing foibles would drive me nuts. As would the lack of warmth between the characters. Great review! I hadn't heard of it at all.

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