Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions

Paranormal is really big in teen fiction right now...and has been for quite awhile. It can be tiresome reading over and over again about vampires, angels, werewolves, and other creatures of the night. But put a new spin on it, and the subject comes to life again. I don't see this teen phenomenon coming to a close anytime soon, but if you want to see the subject in a new light (i.e. without all the romance), check out Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions, an anthology of short stories by sixteen different female authors, edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong.

Short stories, yeah, I know. They get a bad rap because, well, they're short. But if that's a problem for you, Enthralled is different. Many of these short stories take place in worlds the authors have built in book series. In fact, I had my suspicions that some of the stories weren't standalones when I was reading at the beginning, but I knew it before I even looked up the authors' other books because I recognized characters from a young adult novel I'd read. So, if there's a story in this anthology that you really like, you can just look up the author and read more. You might even find a few new authors to try that you haven't before. And that's what this book is about for the authors, at least. It's a promotional tool, designed to spark your interest.

What I like about short stories is that they don't waste time. They have to get you interested immediately without a lot of set-up. They have to end quickly without a lot of time for frivolous details or drawn out romantic scenes. Romance is great, but paranormal romance tends to go off the deep end a lot of the time. There's only so many ways you can write about it, so many creatures you can use or make up. Have you been to a bookstore lately? What stands out first? That young adult section with covers of beautiful boys and girls, sometimes half naked, often with fangs or wings or colored smoke around them. You know what I'm talking about. Huge. Teen. Phenomenon.

Enthralled isn't about paranormal romance. When I picked it up, I thought it was, and I was more interested, at the time, in seeing if a book of young adult short stories could go off. The theme of the book, which holds all the stories together, is Journeys. In some way, each new set of characters has a journey to take. Often, to my surprise, the characters were siblings rather than romantic interests, though there were a few of those, too, the weaker stories, in my opinion.

Now, down to the nitpicking. The first half of the book is fascinating. Each new story is so different and not what I expected. In the latter half of the book, there are a far too many vampires and a few more romances. Plus, by then, I think I was getting tired of "starting over" with each new story, having to get into a whole new set of characters. Also, some of the stories were clearly from bigger worlds that the authors had written in other books. Part of that was cool. I liked having the sense that there was a bigger story, but sometimes, the short story didn't really have a satisfactory end. I guess that's where the promotional aspect of the book comes in. Like the story...buy the author's whole book. Great for the authors. Annoying for the readers unless you're looking for a bigger world to submerge in.

The theme of Journeys could have gotten old by story sixteen or even by story three, but it didn't. Each author approaches the subject very differently, and though a few road trips are actually taken in the stories, the paranormal aspect of it, in this case, is a plus, keeping the stories quite different from each other. The subtitle, Paranormal Diversions, describes this book perfectly. The title, Enthralled, not so much. I don't get it. Is the reader supposed to be enthralled? Are the characters enthralled with their own superhuman powers? Is anything paranormal supposed to be enthralling, simply because of what it is? I enjoyed the book, but I was hardly enthralled.

Three stars. If you are into paranormal teen fiction, check out this book to find new authors to read. The authors, alphabetically, are Kelley Armstrong, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Sarah Rees Brennan, Rachel Caine, Ally Condie, Kimberly Derting, Kami Garcia, Claudia Gray, Melissa Marr, Jackson Pearce, Mary E. Pearson, Carrie Ryan, Jeri Smith-Ready, Margaret Stohl, Jessica Verday, and Rachel Vincent.

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