Starstruck, Sleepless, and Fairy Tale, by Cyn Balog

For a genre that should be all about creativity, most YA paranormal romance is actually pretty standardized. Wearing Converse is proof positive of an artistic nature. It's not at all creepy for a zillion-year-old magical being to continue attending high school. And in any given love triangle, the heroine is always better off choosing the more emotionally constipated option.

Author Cyn Balog's novels actually break some of the above rules, which is why I'm such a fan. Her books—2009's Fairy Tale, 2010's Sleepless, and 2011's Starstruck—are all grade-A examples of genuine weirdness. Fairy Tale is a short, bittersweet romance about a girl torn between her childhood friend and the changeling who has been sent to take over his life. The hero of Sleepless is a Sandman—a supernatural being whose job is to lure humans into sleep—who falls in love with one of his charges. Starstruck (Balog's most ambitious title of the three) features a poor, overweight, unpopular New Jersey girl whose boyfriend has just returned from three years in California looking like a golden god. Oddly, he seems just as into her as ever, but she can't get over the small matter of his strange new tattoo, sudden obsession with the weather, and the inexplicable fevers besetting their classmates...

Balog's characters act in ways that make sense, which is not normal for these types of stories. Her protagonists are reasonably emotionally stable, and no one falls in love because of someone's special blood-scent or their incarnation in a past life or whatever, which makes her happily-ever-afters ring true. Her novels should be 50 to 100 pages longer (deeper characterization and more elaborate world-building could push her writing from “really fun” to “excellent”), but I will totally take them as-is. Realistic characters reacting in pragmatic ways might be the path less traveled in this genre, but it adds a genuinely human—and therefore memorable—element to books about otherwise-implausible creatures.

Review based on publisher-provided copies.
Posted by: Julianka


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