"PARANOIA: Book 2 of the Night Walkers," by J.R. Johansson, Flux, $9.99, 336 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)
It’s rare to find a second book in a trilogy that is better than the first, but with “Paranoia,” the follow-up to 2013’s “Insomnia,” J.R. Johansson continues the storyline that pulled readers in but irons out all the kinks that distracted from the plot in the first installment.
“Paranoia” picks up a few months after the first book finishes. Parker, who is both the main character and a Watcher, or dream walker who spends his nights in the dreams of the last person he makes eye contact with, is struggling to get past the fire that almost killed him and his friends and that succeeded in taking the life of his enemy.
His best friend, Finn; his secret girlfriend, Addie; and his savior of a friend, Mia, whose dreams he found solace in during the first book, continue to be on his side, and despite the memories of the fire, he is doing better than ever.
Then one morning, Parker wakes up in jail with a hangover and no recollection of what happened in the past 12 hours. He discovers that Darkness, his alter ego, has regained his ability to take over Parker’s body and is out to do some damage this time.
Luckily, Jack, the mysterious stranger from the first book, shows up to give Parker some much-needed answers. Unfortunately, those answers put him and his friends in danger and send them on an adventure that will risk but save their lives.
This second book has both the plot and character development that was missing in the first book. The dichotomy between Parker and Darkness raises some interesting questions on what is better: strength and impulsiveness or weakness and control.
Because Parker already knows more about the Night Walker world and gets more answers about what he doesn’t know, the reader gets to spend more time getting to know him. His thoughts and actions are more fleshed out and believable in this book.
While Finn — and his comic relief — along with Addie and Mia are mostly absent in this book, the tension and pacing that pushes the reader along makes up for it. The time spent with Parker’s mom, dad and newfound partner, Jack, brings a maturity to the book that lends itself well to the situations in which the characters find themselves.
Although the conclusion is somewhat predictable and the problems are solved slightly too easily, the book is entertaining and ties up loose ends in a satisfying way.
"Paranoia" has no swearing but does have mild fighting scenes and mild kissing scenes.
Tara Creel's email is email@example.com, and she blogs at taracreelbooks.wordpress.com.