PARANORMALCY (Paranormalcy #1)
Pink bedazzled taser? Check. Supernatural target designation? Vamp. Repertoire of witty comebacks for said supernatural target? Check. For Evie, this is just another normal day. Another normal bag and tag operation for the International Paranormal Containment Agency of which she is an employee. At a mere sixteen years of age, she travels place to place identifying and catching anything paranormal, a job she's had since she was eight. It's a normal life for her. It's all she knows.
Soon, all she knows starts to shift into uncharted territory. Someone or something outside of IPCA authority is targeting supernatural beings and they're dying in alarmingly large numbers. Add to that a break in at the Center where she lives, resulting in the presence of an unusual young shape shifter who claims the IPCA has information needed to stop this unknown killer, and Evie's relative normalcy is shattered.
This new shape shifter is as unique as Evie, and though he doesn't share her ability to see through paranormal glamours, he's able to see things about her she never knew existed. For a girl who can see the usual and unusual more clearly than anyone else, life begins to blur at the edges, right and wrong are no longer so clearly delineated, and normal versus paranormal becomes more relative and hits closer to home than ever before.
Evie is an absolute joy. Usually character development takes time, and the character/reader relationship is built as we navigate the story together, learning, loving, and fighting battles of every kind as we go. By the end of the book, a kinship is formed and we relate to the character in a way we didn't early on in the story. With Evie, there is no such warm-up, no slow introduction to her personality. Instead, she bursts from the first page fully formed in a blaze of sarcastic glory. She's charismatic, personable, and extraordinarily witty, making her an instant friend and confidant, and effectively sealing her fate as a character whose future one can't help but have a vested interest in.
Ms. White does a marvelous job of capturing a teenager in terms of temperament and disposition without exploiting so many of the common cliches that force a teenage character to progress from realistic to melodramatic and overbearing. Evie is snarky without being irritating, typically pouty at times without resorting to petulance, and affectionate without being lovesick.
In addition to a refreshing youthful female protagonist, we also are introduced to a captivating romantic interest in Lend. Unlike so many love interests in young adult literature, Lend doesn't puff himself up with a false bravado or strut around displaying colorful feathers for our heroine to stroke while his beauty overwhelms her independence and reduces her to someone who measures time by the moments they spend together. Lend is vulnerable from the beginning, uncomfortable in his own skin and plagued by insecurities we've all faced at one time or another, and the two together struggle with understandable identity issues. Because of Evie's unique ability to see through all the faces Lend can create as a shape shifter, their relationship starts with an unavoidable and welcome honesty, and that open candor continues despite the extensive difficulties they face.
The relationship between Evie and Lend serves to ground the reader in a story that pulses with paranormal activity, proving itself to be neither a distraction nor a detraction from the main storyline, but rather a delightful addition that complements an engrossing plot. Every supernatural species is represented and then some, but through the fangs, fur, and glamour, we are held firmly in place by the sweet awkwardness of first love. Hypersensitivity to the other person's physical proximity, adorably innocent internal dialogue addled with questions about possible romantic motives, and constant analysis of every word and gesture permeates their interactions, and we can't help but smile as we remember walking in those very same shoes.
The only minor criticism of this novel would be of an ending where things seem to get resolved quickly and easily, and the reader is left with a lengthy list of unanswered questions. Yes, this is the beginning of a series and we will learn more as we go, but this conclusion feels a little like being left in the shallow end of a pool; we can see further complications, emotional progression, and needed information swirling in the depths of the deeper end, but for the time being, we are left tethered having barely broken the surface. Toss me a pair of floaties and push me into deeper waters, I'm ready for the sequel.