Extra Normal

Extra Normal
Age Range
Release Date
August 29, 2023
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Charlie Greer is nothing special—at least not compared to her adopted siblings. Her younger sister is a ghost. Her brother Mateo is a werewolf. Gideon is the product of seriously sketchy experiments that gave him telekinetic powers. Even her parents work for the Division of Extranormal Investigations tracking down all things supernatural, alien, and otherwise unusual.

Charlie's mom says her superpower is maturity—which doesn't really count. But what Charlie lacks in powers she makes up for by keeping the household running. Now, with her parents off on their first vacation in years, it’s up to her to take care of her siblings and make sure nothing disrupts the trip.

But then the new neighbors arrive. The Weavers are a nice, normal couple. Too nice and too normal. And for some reason, they don't seem to want Charlie to see inside their house. She’s certain they’re hiding something. Charlie has to uncover what's going on with the Weavers and stop their plans—without letting Mom and Dad find out anything is wrong.

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Sometimes it pays to be extra normal
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What worked:
The author effectively creates a hook through an air of mystique surrounding Charlie’s new neighbors across the street. The rundown house with crumbling brick has been empty for over a year and her father says it’s unsellable. The neighbors coincidentally move in on the same day Charlie’s parents leave for vacation. That evening, she notices a man, woman, and young boy standing in their front yard with stiff smiles, staring at her house as though they’re posing for a picture. She ventures over the next morning with her siblings and an adult babysitter to meet the neighbors and finds the Weavers wearing name tags. The babysitter offers to help move boxes and Charlie’s siblings are uncharacteristically cooperative. The boxes feel empty to her but the others seem to be carrying heavy loads. Most surprisingly, Charlie is the only one not allowed in the house and she must return home when the neighbor suddenly states her brother isn’t feeling well.
Opal is the most interesting character as she’s a six-year-old ghost. She’s the most timid character and is still learning to transition back and forth between invisible and solid forms. It takes great concentration to pass through walls and then unlock doors which can come in handy while secretly exploring off-limit places. Opal is very sensitive about doing the right thing and not upsetting others so she becomes distressed when sneaking around. This adds another layer of suspense since Opal has a history of burning things up when she gets emotionally overwhelmed. She frequently smolders during the plot so it seems inevitable that she’ll eventually cause something to catch fire.
The mystery of the Weavers is the focus of the plot with other supernatural features included. Charlie doesn’t have any special abilities, she’s extra normal, and the book reveals later on why she doesn’t call her parents when the situation becomes more serious. The Weavers have an unexplainable influence on others, especially Charlie’s babysitters, which makes her investigation more challenging. Tiny, green spiders pop up around her house and in the trees which Miss Sinister, the animated doll in her attic, loves to crunch in her mouth. Charlie’s brother Matty is a young werewolf and he’s pretty good at changing his form. However, a full moon will occur in a few days and he’s unable to control his transformation when this happens. Then, Charlie’s parents have a heavily secured Malice Vault upstairs that holds dangerous artifacts from their past cases. Charlie had a frightening experience with the vault when she was six years old but she’s still curious about the things it contains. The book has plenty of supernatural curiosities to keep readers engaged and the climax presents one more surprising one.
What didn’t work as well:
Charlie’s parents research and resolve supernatural events and there are references to previous cases and a character called the Operative. It feels like this book is the second or third in a series so readers may wonder what they’ve missed. In the end, there is a connection between the current story and some of these past events.
The final verdict:
The book starts as an interesting story about an unusual cast of paranormal characters and grows into an imaginative mystery with unexpected twists. It’s an absorbing adventure that I hope will have a sequel in the near future. I strongly recommend you give this book a shot!
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