Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Harper Teen
Series: Paranormalcy #1
Other Reviews for This Author: None
Paranormalcy is one of those books that you hear a lot of hype about, then you hear some dissent about it following publication because it just didn't gosh-darn please everyone that read it. In your mind, you know that the book's premise hasn't changed at all - people just put expectations on it because of the hype or the bestseller status. So you get scared and don't read it because you just aren't sure. I should have listened to my gut and gotten this book when it first appeared, because it was like every awesome YA paranormal concept was a part of a torrid love-shape of wonder. (Or, if you want it to make sense, it's one of those books where a whole bunch of paranormal creatures and concepts are introduced instead of just one or a few.) This book was flat-out excellent, and I enjoyed every minute of reading it.
Ever since she was a child, Evie could recognize something different in the world that others couldn't. The presence of paranormal beings. While others would find someone to be sexy and debonair, she could see through the glamor and find the corpse-y vampire underneath. She'd been orphaned and brought into the Paranormal Containment Agency (PCA) to get training and to help further their goal of protecting people from the more dangerous paranormal creatures - vampires included. Evie's known about the PCA (and the international organization - the IPCA) for most of her life, and working for it is basically her life.
Evie's a teenager now. Her training from IPCA has provided her with valuable experience and tools in order to properly capture, detain, and deal with paranormal creatures. That includes working with faeries and their true names and being able to battle it out with her sequined taser, Tasey. Evie works with faeries, vampires, werewolves, and even mermaids on a daily basis. Her best friend, Lish, is actually a mermaid who works with IPCA and talks with her via a computer because of the aquatic creature/land creature barrier. What Evie revels in is taking the time to watch simple shows like Easton Heights that focus on what regular high schoolers go through.
Sometimes it would feel better just to be a regular teenager - and not the kind of normal that Evie's grown up with her entire life. Her already-strange environment begins to be turned upside down when paranormals begin turning up dead without rhyme nor reason. What frightens Evie is that they look....odd...when she finds them. A new shapeshifter taken into the IPCA lab also stirs up trouble, and seems to be connected to the way that paranormals are dropping like flies. Evie is the only one that can see him vaguely for what he really is. There's something impossible to pin down about the new addition to the paranormals at IPCA, but Evie is certain about one thing concerning him - he's making her think about more than just fighting baddies.
This is the part of the review where I would go on and analyze the death out of the character. I'm going to do that. What readers should know about Evie right away is that she's real. By that, I mean that she has a very defined personality that is not so subtle as to be nearly non-existent, which seems to be the trend of a lot of YA at the moment. Evie starts off as being a character that we immediately find appealing. The kind of character that look at a creepy vampire and make fun of his horror presentation. Yep. Snarky and slightly annoyed with a majority of the people who pepper her life. In case you can't tell, Evie is the definition of a teenager. I found her to be a character that came across as humorous but still generally cheery and respectful despite the snark and teenage angst. She longs for a "normal" life, but doesn't spend her entire page time focusing on it because she has more important things to do with her time. I also love that she actually grows throughout the book. She keeps some of her hang-ups - most notably the one that gives her a strange fascination with the lives of normal teenagers - but grows into such a deeper character as the story progresses. Meeting the shapeshifter and other events allow her to begin to question the politics of her organization and others. She begins to see how IPCA and its detractors are both in gray area that's extremely hard to define. I found that to be a really smart development on the author's part. I love it when a character begins to realize her world is bigger and more complex than she could have imagined. It resonates so well with the teenage experience, and in this case it's used as a paranormal world building device. So it's kind of the thing I look for in paranormal novels.
Paranormalcy's description immediately makes you think that the book will have a diverse and eclectic range of side characters to go along with the protagonist's journey. I found myself impressed and surprised (in a good way) with the type of characters that White brought to the table. Lish is one that immediately struck a chord. Not only is she a mermaid, but her skewed connection to Evie's semi-human life is humorous and intriguing - as is her BLEEPed mermaid swearing. She's the type of character that plays off of the protagonist so well that she shows her own personality quite clearly without much effort or trouble. She's a character that really stays in your heart throughout the read. Then there was Reth, the creeper stalker faerie who could easily creep me out within the space of a few pages. Again, this is a relationship that is clearly portrayed as creepy to the reader and the protagonist. I found Reth to be a really good example of a fae character, too. He really is biting and self-serving, and you realize that he has his own twisted sense of morals that just really mess you up. Evie's instructor at IPCA was also interesting, although I felt like she wasn't around enough to be a stand-out secondary character like Lish or Reth.
Lend, Mr. Shapeshifter Hero Guy, is probably one of my favorite love interests of the YA paranormal spectrum. He's got actual flaws - especially in regards to being trusting with Evie and explaining the full depth of what his status as a paranormal being is - but he's a kind guy at heart that treats Evie with a lot of respect. Respectful heroes for the win! I also found it different that White gave him mystery by making it clear that even he doesn't know entirely what he is or what his true 'form' is. It manages to make the reader interested in him and his character development...not just his hotness. I found the overall romantic connection between Lend and Evie to be well written and satisfying. There was a fair amount of push and pull between them, and they eventually settle into a slow friends-to-more path. It was a nice break from the (admittedly fun) stories of the just-met-you-to-wanting-to-make-out-with-you variety. The winning romance was one of the highlights of this book overall, so it made me very pleased. Even thought it's chaste, it's a believable and cute chaste. Don't let that detour you from checking it out.
White's writing style is really deserving of the praise its gotten so far. I found it to be very funny. It made me giggle. That's a very good thing. What White does best is that she writes with a purpose. Her books read quickly, and they aren't bogged down with too much extra stuff. She shows a lot of her development with great effectiveness, and the reader finds that they get a lot of story for what they're reading. While it focuses more so on plot than on relationships overall, the balance is pretty close to 50/50, and it makes the book really well-rounded. I'm a fan of books that can use this type of writing style effectively, so Paranormalcy won major points for that. If I had one flaw with it, it was how the middle of the book had more of a 'set-up for more things' feel to it. It didn't detract enough from my experience to make me think less of the book grade-wise, but it's worth mentioning because it's almost unusual that the reader is hit with that preparedness during that period. The ending really rocked it, though, and there was a lot of plot that was unique and thrilling (but it would be spoiling it to just tell you about it.) White doesn't give the same old, same old with Paranormalcy, and I'll be going back to her writing style after reading it.
Reading Paranormalcy is something that I really and truly enjoyed. It was fun and had great writing, plot, and character development. I felt like Kiersten created a strong and detailed world, and she made it seem realistic. This book is a little 'cleaner' than a lot of paranormal YA (just hand-holding and slight kissing here; no cuss words) but felt organic in how it worked (a character would 'swear' but not say the specific word, Evie just didn't grow up with it, and Lish was BEEPed.) That being said, I've seen the complaints on it and have to agree that it won't be for everyone. I found it to be realistic enough to get sucked into it without any problems. Supernaturally can only get better.
Cover: I love the drama of the cover, but it doesn't really scream the type of urban fantasy that the book is.
Rating: 5.0 Stars
Copy: Received from publicist/publisher for review (Thank you so much, Heather and Harper Teen!)