Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
In the spirit of my last post, here is my first review – of Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.
I started Paranormalcy yesterday afternoon and finished it last night (late last night). It isn’t short, I just really loved it. The characters are appealing, with real histories, depth and complexity, the voice of the protagonist is fully realised and convincing and it’s exciting, keeping the reader off-balance and in as much suspense as Evie herself.
From my perspective, the book’s main theme was ‘normalcy’ and how people perceive it. All the characters want to do is be free to live their idea of a normal life – it appears to be the driving motivation of every character. But of course, normal for one person is not normal for another and freedom is not always necessarily a good thing … or is it?
Nothing in this book is what it seems.
The book opens with a ‘normal’ incident in the life of the main character – Evie. And what a great opening. Evie reminded me a lot of Buffy – she’s an attractive blonde teenager who goes out hunting vampires (and other supernaturals). But unlike Buffy, there’s no chance of Evie falling in love with a vampire. Her own power is that she can see through ‘glamours’ (the images that supernaturals project to the world) and to her eyes vampires look like ‘your grandpa … minus fifty pounds, plus 200 years’. She’s ‘sassy’, she uses a pink taser that she has nicknamed Tasey and has a passion for the colour pink.
But she has lived in an institute since she was eight, has no idea who her parents are, and craves human contact and affection so much that it endangers her. The institute she works for seems a bit like ‘the initiative’ (again Buffy) a government agency out to ‘bag and tag’ paranormals and there are clearly things going on in there that she doesn’t know.
At the end of her normal day, Evie foils an apparent attempt by a shapeshifter to infiltrate the institute and discovers that paranormals are being murdered. Why they are being killed and how it involves Evie forms the backbone of the storyline.
The romance in the book is lovely. It is not too ‘hot and heavy’, nor is it ‘love at first sight’, it is a touching and realistic depiction of two people who have never known what it’s like to be loved for themselves, to really be ‘seen’. For me, a particularly emotional scene has Lend taking the form of an unattractive boy and when Evie barely even notices he says “you don’t really care about this face, do you?”; that’s all White needs to say to show the reader how desperately Lend has wanted to know that someone his age likes him for something other than the face he can project.
Like Shakespeare often does with his play-within-a-play, White also plays a great game with ‘what could have been’. Easton Heights is a high school soap opera, Evie’s favourite programme, which she imagines portrays normal high school life. When Evie gets to spend a single day in a real high school, she expects cat-fights and snogging, but in fact gets an ordinary day. White plays brilliantly with the stereotypes of teenage fiction; for example, she sets up a character as ‘the mean girl’ and in many other books she would have attacked Evie just because she’s ‘the mean girl’, but she backs down and they end up being quite friendly. It was clever and it made me smile.
The threat hanging over Evie, the creepy stalker ex that she can’t shake, the scent of death that surrounds her every move, is brilliantly depicted. White has done her research and that makes it all the more real, especially as so much of the story depends on an important piece of faery lore.
I really can’t say how much I enjoyed reading this book
My only criticism is that, given Evie’s importance to the government (a whole international treaty has been developed around her very existence), she gets to spend a lot of time in the field unprotected – one would imagine that she would at the very least, have a hulking bodyguard, it being set in America. Still, that was the only thing that required me to suspend my disbelief – and this is in a book that also contains werewolves, mermaids, vampires, shapeshifters, faeries and much more. That’s how good the writing is.
I heartily recommend Paranormalcy, it’s a fresh voice in the ‘paranormal romance’ market and everyone should enjoy it.