Thursday, January 3, 2013

Faerytale Magic: A Book Review on Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

16-year-old Evie works at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, or the IPCA for short. She deals with faeries on a daily basis, she hunts down vampires and werewolves that are a menace to society and her best friend Lish is a mermaid. Evie is one of the best at her job, thanks to her natural and yet unexplainable talent to see through all paranormal glamours. But there's a new threat out there now threatening the lives of all paranormals. After a shape-shift infiltrates the IPCA looking for information about the new threat and ends up captured, Evie begins to realize that her particular brand of weirdness may be part of a prophecy that links her destiny to the fate of every paranormal creature in the world.

This book was fun. For me, anyways. I found the lead to be engaging, funny and charming in her own witty way. I thought her life was interesting, I enjoyed her care-free attitude and her longing for a high school existence. I've spent the last three days working through White's whole trilogy, which I've had on my shelves for ages and just never gotten around to reading (*cringes* I have a habit of doing that). So finally, I took the whole trilogy out of my library, left them on top of my computer to guilt me into picking them up and reading them and there you have it folks, I read them in record time. Hell, I even spent precious hours reading these books while I should have been talking to my family, who came to visit and ring in the New Year earlier this week (happy 2013!) Was it worth it? I'd say yes, for the first book in the series, yes it was.

First off, let's discuss the writing. White displays some impressive talent here because Evie's point-of-view had the wonderful ability to take on a conversational tone. The whole time I'm reading Paranormalcy, I felt like Evie was actually talking to me, it's a very subtle shift, a way of rambling and staying in the immediate moment that made Evie's voice one of the more unique that I've encountered in the YA genre. White's writing was able to convey the sense of a truly admirable heroine in this book, one that you wish you could really talk to because when it comes right down to it, Evie is just that fun as a character.

Concerning plot, I found it interesting to explore the idea of what would happen when a girl, whose responsibility it is to save the world from paranormals, is suddenly faced with the dilemma of having to save those same paranormals from another unknown threat. It lead to some interesting questions, one of which is the fact that who gives the IPCA the right to judge non-threatening paranormals and force them to follow certain protocols? Does anyone have the right to force others to bend to their wills? Faced with the fact that maybe the agency she works for has gotten a lot of things wrong over the years, Evie is forced to reconsider the truths she's been raised with and make new choices, deciding for herself to take the strides necessary to make a change for the better in the world. The prophecy ties her fate to the faeries and in the end enables her discern a place where she matters and makes a difference. The prophecy also ties her to the villain in question, a being with unique abilities, who eventually crosses paths with Evie, and while it rattles the heroine, she comes into a strength that not only allows her to grow but also to come to a place where she's finally able to get answers about her own origin and talents.

So now I go more into Evie as a lead. The tone and point-of-view are spot on, working with a 16-year-old with real concerns, like capturing a vampire before it hurts someone, and then placing those concerns opposite to a longing to attend high school, which is fueled by an obsession with a teen soap opera. Evie loves shopping and the color pink and anything sparkly (she has a pink taser decorated with rhinestones that she's nicknamed Tasey), and despite her life dealing with paranormals, she has this vulnerable, almost childlike innocence about her that makes her endearing to the reader. You want this girl to get the things she dreams of, and when it turns out that she truly desires to have a high school locker of her very own, you can't help but grin because yes, it's ridiculous, but it's what Evie wants. Over the course of my own school career I had a total of three lockers assigned to me every year (school, band and gym), so while I don't get the appeal of combinations and books and lockers, I find it funny that I'm charmed by a YA heroine who so desperately would love a locker of her own. Very funny indeed, and worth enough to already ensure that I'll read the next book in the series.

But the review is not done, even though I've given that guarantee in the paragraph above. Moving on, I normally HATE love triangles and while I would probably have turned my nose up at the fact that there is one in this book, I have to admit that White handled her love triangle with a bit more skill than the average love triangle affairs seen in other releases. Rather than have a girl who is torn between two guys, Evie is a girl who has a bad breakup in her past, she understands precisely what was wrong with that relationship and she's determined to never fall into that trap again. So then when she meets the new guy, she's actually ready to explore a healthy normal relationship, something she was prevented from experiencing in the past. She's not torn between the two love interests. She working through her connections between two guys, making sure to move on in a healthy way that makes this triangle a more realistically acceptable situation.

The unhealthy relationship from the past brings in Reth, a faerie who works with the IPCA as a transport, taking agents through the Faerie paths to their destinations around the globe. He's obsessed with Evie and is petty enough to attempt to use his glamour skills to try to sway Evie's affections for him. Refreshingly enough, Evie is aware of this fact and takes great care in avoiding Reth at all costs. (As a sidenote, I find that I'm disturbed that there are Reth fans out there. The guy gave me the creeps with his stalker tendencies and I cheered every time Evie gave him a piece of her mind. Really, bleh to Reth.) Characterization-wise, Reth was developed enough to give off a truly ick vibe with his inability to understand just how wrong he was about emotions all the time and I found myself skeeved out a bit every time he appeared in the book.

The healthy relationship that Evie is hoping to have in her future brings in Lend, a shape-shifter who attempted to gather intel from the IPCA after successfully and somewhat foolhardily breaking in without a solid plan of escape in place. Once he's been captured by Evie, he's placed in a containment unit and tagged with an ankle monitor. Rather than pay attention to her supervisor's wishes, Evie finds herself entranced by the newcomer in her midst, who just happens to be the first paranormal she's met that's close to her age. Add to that the fact that when she looks at him she sees the real Lend, whose true appearance is that of a boy made out of water, and Evie is hooked on learning what she can about the boy she helped capture. He's wary at first, inquisitive, and eventually charming without laying it on thick. Evie and Lend start out as friends and when she eventually realizes she has feelings for him, it's entertaining to read about how she stresses over whether he might like her back and what his life is like outside in the real world. It was a believable development, no instant, flash in the pan, love at first sight malarkey here. So in the end, that made it an enjoyable read.

There are more characters central to the core of this story, such as Evie's surrogate mom figure Raquel and David, Lend's dad, who come in periodically over the course of the story. Raquel works as Evie's supervisor at IPCA, so when Evie begins to question her place there, she also has to work to understand her relationship with the only mother figure she's ever known. David provides a counterbalance to Raquel as a former employee of the American branch of the containment agency that existed before the IPCA was formed. Having come to the conclusion that their protocols were wrong during the process of falling in love with a paranormal, David walked away from his job so that he could raise his paranormal son in safe environment. They are two sides of the same coin and I look forward to a further exploration of their roles as the primary caretakers of Evie and Lend in the next book.

In the end, I found Paranormalcy to be a charming read. It was engaging, fun and just what I needed after encountering a few dud books over the course of December.

Rating: 8 Stars

I really liked this book. I even gave a copy to someone as a gift. I know for a fact that they haven't read it yet, but trust me, having just finished this book myself, I will begin nagging said person to read their copy. It was just that much fun, serious and light-hearted at the same time, making it stick with you once you've finished reading it. All good things, no doubt and a great way to kick off my reading list for 2013.

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