Thursday, January 26, 2012

Paranormal Public by Maddy Edwards

Title: Paranormal Public
Series: Paranormal Public
Author: Maddy Edwards
Length: 6490 Kindle units
Rating: 3.5 stars

The Plot

Charlotte had been getting ready to go to college, but she did not plan to go to one quite so strange. The day before she departs, she is attacked by a frightening black dog. When she wakes up, she finds herself not at her chosen university but at the mysterious Paranormal Public University.

Instead of taking Intro Psych or Chem 101, Charlotte has to use magical power that she doesn’t seem to possess and study the history of a war between races that she’s never heard of. She has to learn quickly because the supernatural war is coming ever closer to Paranormal Public, and the school might just need Charlotte if it wants to survive.

The Good

Paranormal Public was a fun and upbeat tale that utilized just about every kind of supernatural creature – vampires, werewolves, mages, pixies, angels, demons, and giant killer dogs. (No werebadgers, but you can’t have everything.) It was interesting to watch how the different races coexisted, interacting but not really mixing with each other.

As in Maddy Edward’s One Black Rose series, a lot of the most interesting people were the side characters. Among them were Charlotte’s wise-beyond-his-years little brother Ricky, the super-cheerful werewolf Sip, the sarcastic dark mage Lisabelle, and the histrionic pixie Camilla. The varying characters with their mix of positive and negative traits make Charlotte’s adventures come alive.

The Bad

The biggest problem with Paranormal Public is that it could not be more of a Harry Potter knockoff if it tried. A student is taken away from a neglectful family and into a world of magic that she never knew existed. The students are divided up into competitive houses, even though unity among them would be more beneficial to their cause. The student quickly makes friends with the outcasts and enemies of the privileged. One teacher seems to be evil, and there is a magical sport that everyone loves to play. So, yes, it’s basically Harry Potter with a girl in college. And we all love Harry Potter, of course, but we also appreciate a little more variation on the theme.

My other issue with Paranormal Public is that the writing is a bit clunky. Events don’t always happen in a smooth chain of events. For example, in the beginning, Charlotte is preparing to go to college and escape her horrible stepfather. Before she leaves, she is attacked by a black dog in the middle of the street and then suddenly she wakes up at a totally new university that she has never heard of. My reaction was basically, “What? Who took her there? How did this happen? Doesn’t she have to, like, talk to her other college about not going?” Eventually I decided not to question and just go with it, but occasionally a sequence of events would leave me puzzled.

The Romance

Students at Paranormal Public are strongly discouraged from dating anyone outside their supernatural creature type, which is a big problem for Charlotte, since she doesn’t seem to have a supernatural creature type. Nonetheless, she manages to catch the attention of Cale, a pixie she knew from back home with a drama queen girlfriend, and Keller, a fallen angel tasked to tutor her in remedial magic.

I’m not entirely sure what powers fallen angels have (except for wings. All good angel stories must have cute boys with wings), but if Keller is any indication, they apparently have the power to be awesome in everything. He spends his weekdays at class and tutoring Charlotte. He spends his weekends supervising students in detention and being the best competitor in the school wide sport, Dash. In between there he somehow also manages to keep up with his classes and be one of the best-looking and popular kids at Paranormal Public. It’s kind of impressive. And possibly a little unrealistic.

Will I read more?

As I read books and decide how I’m going to review them, one of the most important domains is something that I call my give-a-crap meter. Basically, this consists of me reflecting on what I have read and thinking “Do I give a crap?” If I were to flip a page and discover that all the students suddenly burned to death in a fire, would I be sad? If Maddy Edwards declared that she was never going to write another book about Charlotte and Keller and their battle against demons, would I be disappointed? The answer in this case is “Yes, I do give a crap.”

I do not think the importance of this factor in reviews can be exaggerated. Many books are excellently written but fail to make me care about the characters or their problems. Paranormal Public has some issues, but when it comes down to it, it was an interesting read about characters I wouldn’t mind seeing again. So if and when there is a sequel to Paranormal Public, it will probably be making an appearance on a Sequel Tuesday.

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