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Review: Paranormalcy

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. Harper Collins. 2010. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: Evie, sixteen, works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, helping contain paranormals such as faeries, vampires and werewolves. It’s her version of normalcy until a captured shape-shifter makes her rethink everything she knows about paranormals, the IPCA, and herself.

The Good: I read Paranormalcy on the plane out to ALA Midwinter; it was one I’d been meaning to read  but hadn’t yet, and there was a chance of meeting the author at ALA so I decided perfect plane reading! Which it was, except for the jealousy-inducing method by which Evie travels the world — faerie paths that are practically instantaneous.

The bad thing about bringing a good book to Midwinter is that you end up saying how much you enjoyed it to someone whose response is, “oh, I’d like to read it.” And there goes your copy, which makes writing a review a bit more challenging. In other words, no quotes! And those quotes would have been me showing (not telling) that Paranormalcy delivers what I like in supernatural books: humor mixed with seriousness. I want to laugh and be scared at the same time. But, really, the cover shows you all that and more, with the play on the words “paranormal” and “normalcy” which, well, are quite the opposites, aren’t they? It also has a beautiful girl who is not smiling. Who looks kinda dangerous. Yet who is wearing a fancy dress. That expression and that dress, like the words “paranormal” and “normalcy,” appear to be opposites.

What is “normal”? For Evie, her normal is being a human who hunts paranormal creatures because she has a talent, a gift for seeing under the “glamour” the paranormals wear to pretend they are human. It’s having a best friend who is a mermaid who can only “talk” to her through a computer generated voice and a faerie for an ex-boyfriend who (still) makes her feel all warm and golden inside (literally). It’s loving teen soap operas and pretty clothes but only being able to watch teens on TV or buy clothes online.

The normal Evie wants is the normal she sees on TV: a normal of high schools and lockers, human family and friends, boyfriends and proms. Evie may get the “normal” she wants, and it comes from an unexpected source, a shape-shifter who breaks into the IPCA. This new paranormal creature raises questions that Evie didn’t know she had, and forces her to re-examine just what is meant by “paranormal” and “normal”. See, this is part of why I love supernatural stories: it’s not about the vampires or the faeries or whatever. Here, it seems like it’s about a paranormal hunting girl raised by a government agency who begins to wonder if paranormals are all evil and the IPCA is all good. What it is really about is a teenager who begins to realize that she can make choices in her life, including the choice between the way she was raised and the way she wants to live. The whole idea of what is “normal” — is it your family? Is it what you see on the TV? Is it something else? — is also applicable to just about anyone.

OK, it is also about the faeries and are they good or bad and what about that hot shape shifter named Lend and how, exactly, can a shape shifter be hot?

What else did I enjoy? That a story about vampires addresses the fact that a vampire is a corpse and rotting flesh is not sexy. Also, who is right and who is wrong and what is right and what is wrong is not necessarily what Evie or the reader thinks. A simple “bag and tag” plot turns out to have dangerous shades of gray, and that it makes sense that it takes time for Evie to begin to realize that and that she wouldn’t have figured it out earlier.

By the end of the book, questions are answered but in answering, more are raised. Which means: Sequel! The sequel, Supernaturally, is coming out August/September 2011.

About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is


  1. If I had been reading YA sci fi/fantasy for the Cybils, instead of middle grade, this is one I would have pushed for with tremendous enthusiasm! I was sad it didn’t get that particular nod, because I think it has the reader appeal element in spades!

  2. The reader appeal is huge. I’m looking forward to see what happens with the next book.

  3. You liked this one a bit more than I did. I thought it was cute and was all the things that you metioned but for some reason I felt like it was a little more childish. I think it would make for a great middle grade read and introdcution to paranormal for younger kids.

  4. Michelle, I think this would work well with the younger YA crowd (middle school). I’m wondering about my niece, who is 10, so middle grade. She likes scary but is very “no” about romance in books, etc., so I didn’t think of it for her. I passed my copy along to someone already so cannot use her as my test subject. Now I wonder how young this would work with…