Today we bring you something a little different. Carrie Harris is a dear friend of mine with a passion for all things paranormal. Since we ladies at STACKED aren’t big paranormal readers, we thought we’d let Carrie do some talking about why, maybe, we should be (or at least why it’s a genre worth giving a shot). And yes, she is an expert.
The Lure of Paranormal
I am in desperate need of a 12 step program for YA paranormal book addicts. It’s not that I don’t love a well written contemporary (because I do) or an earth shattering epic fantasy (ditto). It’s just that I find it particularly difficult to pass up the paranormal covers in my local YA section. You know the ones I mean–they’re covered in purple smoke, silver letters, and half obscured faces of girls who don’t realize they’re about to fall in love with a vampire/werewolf/mutant wombat/whatever.
When you put it that way, it sounds like a joke, but I’m serious about my addiction. I LIKE paranormal. I think that in many ways paranormal books get a bad rap because of a few titles that read like one big cliché, but doesn’t every genre have those? I argue that they do, and just like any other genre there are fabulous books as well as The Books We Shall Not Mention Because They Are Made of Suck.
So how do you separate the suck from the fab? Like any other genre, it all starts with the story. I’m looking for a much needed escape from mundane reality—from fatigue and the endless to-do list and who-said-what-to-whom. Sometimes we all deserve a little brain candy, and I’m okay with that. But I’m also looking for a story with real characters that deal with real problems, not a herd of Mary Sues falling in love with perfect and unattainable (but eventually attained) hot supernatural boys. I think some people judge paranormal in particular because of a few of those well known stereotypes. But the Mary Sues are escapable! If you can find a Mary Sue in, for
example, Maggie Stiefvater’s BALLAD, I’ll pay you a quarter.
But good paranormals also say something about reality, and it’s something I can really invest in.If you give me a dry nonfiction about the dichotomy of good and evil, I’m probably not going to read it. But give me Robin McKinley’s SUNSHINE and let me watch her shakily navigate her search for someone to rely on in a vampiric world full of shades of grey? I’m riveted. And I end up thinking things like, “Who would I trust if I were her? What would I do? And isn’t Constantine disturbingly hot?” Ultimately, I learn something about where I stand on that whole dichotomy issue. And then I have something to talk about at fancy dinner parties that will make me sound smart.
This is not to say that I expect to be preached at by my paranormals—far from it! I’m saying that I think the best paranormals tap into something universal about life (or unlife), something that is easier for me to see in an otherworldly fairy than it is in myself or people just like me. And I think that really works for teens. I can’t get my teenage acquaintances to debate human rights with me, but we sure as heck can talk all night about the treatment of zombies in Jonathan Maberry’s ROT AND RUIN. And why is that so interesting? Because it’s a good freaking story! Because Benny is flung into an epic adventure that kept me glued to the pages despite the fact that it was godawful late and I knew it was going to hurt the next morning. But that adventure
had depth to it. I’m talking the kind of depth that made me gnash my teeth and say, “Man, I wish I’d written that!”
Reading over this post, I keep feeling the temptation to add and change and make paranormals seem SPECIAL, because don’t we want these things from all our books? We want good stories and characters that make us swoon and wince and yell, “NOOOO!” at the pages. (I did that recently. I’m still traumatized.) We want books that resonate with us, books that we carry around days or weeks or months after the last page has been turned and still can’t shake the feeling that we’ve been irrevocably changed. So I guess my argument is that paranormal books aren’t any different or lesser than any other genre—they can and are doing all those things above. If you’re not reading them, you’re missing out.
And did I mention the hot supernatural boys?
Some Paranormals That Will Change Your Mind About Paranormals
A list like this is hard to create, because there are so many great books that straddle the lines. It’s hard to know whether to call some books paranormal, or fantasy, or fantastic paranormal, or I-don’t-care-what-you-call-it-because-it’s-freaking-awesome. But here are some titles that made me think, or snarf milk out my nose, or swoon, or all three (but not at the same time).
BALLAD – Maggie Stiefvater
BLACK CAT – Holly Black
DEVILISH – Maureen Johnson
HEX HALL – Rachel Hawkins
LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES – Laini Taylor
NIGHTSHADE – Andrea Cremer
PARANORMALCY – Kiersten White
PEEPS – Scott Westerfeld
ROT AND RUIN – Jonathan Maberry
SUNSHINE – Robin McKinley
A Little About Carrie
Carrie Harris is a paranormal-obsessed geek of all trades and proud of it. Before she became a novelist, she wrote paranormal roleplaying games and worked in a lab. (See what I mean? GEEK.) Brains are her specialty; they used to be delivered to her lab daily via FedEx. After that, it seemed only natural to write a zombie book—BAD TASTE IN BOYS, which comes out inJuly from Delacorte. Now she lives in Michigan with her ninja doctor husband and three zombie-obsessed children.
Carrie’s favorite topics of conversation include the vampire mythos, Frankenthulhu, and what to name her herd of zombie penguins. Feel free to contact her through her website (http://carrieharrisbooks.com) to discuss these things.
At only sixteen years old, Evie has worked for the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA) for as long as she can remember. After being abandoned as a baby and shuttling through foster homes, she was finally taken in by Raquel, a mother figure of sorts and the head of IPCA, an international organization that seeks to find, tag, and contain (duh) the plethora of paranormal creatures that abound in plain sight in normal society, unnoticed due to their glamours. Key to the existence of IPCA is Evie herself, whose ability to see through these glamours and identify the vampires, werewolves, hags, and other creatures enables IPCA’s existence. However, when a mysterious creature starts breaking into IPCA bases and killing paranormal creatures across the world, Evie discovers that she is far more important than she had ever dreamed. After finding out that she is at the center of an ancient faery prophecy, Evie teams up with Lend, a shape-shifter (one who Evie had bagged and tagged herself), to discover the truth behind her past and save the lives of the paranormals.
Although Kiersten White debuted at #7 on the New York Times Bestseller List with Paranormalcy, I was still initially reluctant to pick this book up, due to my extreme burnout with the paranormal genre, which seems to be spawning more derivative clones than a Hollywood studio. Ironically, while I have avoiding most paranormal books, I have recently become obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show that I somehow missed in high school. Throughout the summer I’ve worked my way through Seasons 1-5 on Netflix Instant. Buffy’s snark, clever quips, and intrigue have found their match in Evie, whose straightforward, self-confident personality is well-fleshed out by first time author White. In fact, the character of Evie is what makes this novel, in my opinion. Rather than simply being a tale of a Mary Sue who falls in love with a ‘fill in the blank’ paranormal creature, Evie is a strong, kick-butt female heroine who glories in her femininity and seeks answers without whining.
The evolving romance between Evie and Lend is quite believable, as White shows the gradual progression of their initial attraction, growing flirtation, and subtle transition into love. One of my big pet peeves in YA literature is the ‘love at first sight, I must now sacrifice my entire life for you’ relationship. While Evie and Lend certainly don’t live a normal life, their romance is a believable mirror to real life teenage relationships. This romance, like the plot itself, is nicely paced–steady and not rushed, with just the right amount of exposition and illustration.
Also, simply put, Evie is real. She loves the color pink, is obsessed with the teen drama Easton Heights (who doesn’t love a character who loves TV as much as we do?), and yearns to experience the normal day-to-day life of a high school student. Most notably, she wavers between which path she should take, is vulnerable, questions herself, and isn’t perfect. This is incredibly refreshing to read.
One quibble I did have with Paranormalcy is the slight shrift that Evie’s relationship with the enigmatic Reth, one of the IPCA’s staff faeries, is given. However, since Paranormalcy is the first book in a trilogy, I feel sure that the details of the prophecy and both Evie and Reth’s role in it will be fully fleshed out in the later books.
Ultimately, Paranormalcy succeeds in its utter originality and will appeal to fans of Meg Cabot and Maureen Johnson’s hip, pop-culturally aware voices, along with those who enjoy Lisa McMann’s Wake series and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely.
Copy borrowed from fellow blogger Kara at Not Just for Kids.