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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Kiersten White Does for Paranormal Fiction What 'MIB' Did for Aliens

I just finished this first book in Kiersten White's "Paranormalcy" series and enjoyed it immensely. The writing is crisp and keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace throughout. The flow of the book was perfect, and the tone was light and fun.

The author does a great job of capturing teenage insecurity, then transferring it to a world that's not quite our own. She doesn't just describe situations, but she really gets at Evie's feelings about everything that's going on, which is one thing that separates a great author from an average writer, in my book. Her conflicted emotions toward her adoptive mother figure seemed particularly natural and human in a very superhuman world. The tone is somewhat similar to that of the "Magic Kingdom of Landover" series by Terry Brooks, another series I thought was great: quirky, a little serious and a lot of fun, all at the same time.

The beginning of the book reminded me a lot of "Men in Black," as though the author had created a similar universe of odd other-than-human individuals, substituting paranormals for aliens. The idea that a secret undercover organization is keeping tabs on paranormals who hide right under our noses was a natural offshoot of the MIB concept, though I have no idea whether that film played any part in inspiring this series. The characters and story line here are certainly original, which quickly eliminates the feeling that White's work is in any way derivative.

The "villains" here are well-crafted. I really couldn't stand Reth - which is a good thing, because the reader isn't supposed to like him - who felt like the sort of rogue you might find in a Neil Gaiman work (done American style). Like the protagonist, I became more than annoyed at the way he never fully explained his motives. I found myself saying, "Of course she didn't go along with your plan, since you didn't bother letting her in on what it is!" Vivian was nicely drawn in that she wasn't a one-dimensional villain. You could understand her motivation for being the way she was, and like Evie, in some ways, it's possible to feel a bit sorry for her.

Lend (a character's name) is a great, sympathetic romantic interest for Evie. I enjoyed the fact that the requisite romantic interest wasn't overplayed. It wasn't some all-encompassing angst-ridden "Twilight" sort of thing; more a tender and playful tale of discovering the opposite sex. It didn't overpower the main story line, but instead complemented it well.

I'll give "Paranormalcy" a five-star review for its strong writing, well-drawn characters and effortless flair. It's a bestseller already, and it's easy to see why.

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