Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Summoning - Kelley Armstrong

Title: The Summoning (The Darkest Powers series Book 1)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Doubleday Canada, 2008 (Paperback)
Length: 390 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: June 22, 2010
Finished: June 24, 2010

From the author's website:
Chloe Saunders sees dead people. Yes, like in the films. The problem is, in real life saying you see ghosts gets you a one-way ticket to the psych ward. And at 15, all Chloe wants to do is fit in at school and maybe get a boy to notice her. But when a particularly violent ghost haunts her, she gets noticed for all the wrong reasons. Her seemingly crazed behaviour earns her a trip to Lyle House, a centre for 'disturbed teens'. At first Chloe is determined to keep her head down. But then her room mate disappears after confessing she has a poltergeist, and some of the other patients also seem to be manifesting paranormal behaviour. Could that be a coincidence? Or is Lyle House not quite what it seems...? Chloe realizes that if she doesn't uncover the truth, she could be destined for a lifetime in a psychiatric hospital. Or could her fate be even worse...? Can she trust her fellow students, and does she dare reveal her dark secret?

This is one of those series that everyone talks about and that I've been meaning to read and have finally gotten around to it. Yet another example of supernatural/urban fantasy fiction that dominates the YA market, The Summoning isn't the best example of the genre (I have yet to find a supernatural fiction novel that I love to pieces), but it really kept my interest and was a good read. Chloe Saunders sees dead people. Think Ghost Whisperer, just younger. When a really persistent ghost freaks her out, her behaviour lands her in a group home for teens with mental illnesses where she gets diagnosed with schizophrenia. She eventually realizes that she actually is raising the dead, not just seeing them, and that her other housemates have real supernatural abilities too. I loved the premise of the book, I think the whole youth home scenario kept me reading simply because it was different and interesting. Most characters with supernatural powers in books manage to keep it hidden fairly well, so this was unique in that the kids had the primary problem of escaping the home and the secondary problem of keeping their powers under control. Because Chloe is essentially in the dark for most of the book and only realizes that they all have supernatural powers about 3/4 of the way through, we as readers are introduced to the concepts as abruptly as Chloe is, so the explaining of all the concepts could've been a bit smoother, but I'm hoping they get more into it in the second and third books.

The one thing that bugged me about the book was the pop culture references. Between iPods and Macbooks, DSes, Gap, Lizzie McGuire, The Olsen Twins, Firefox, Xbox, PSP, IE, MSN, etc; the first half of this book felt like a constant product placement ad. I can picture myself reading this in 10 years and laughing at it, thinking that it hasn't aged well. I like books that don't date themselves, ones that talk about "video games" and "instant messaging" rather than naming actual brands, it cuts down on the time it takes for the book to become unrelatable to kids. I do have to give the book credit though, this novel contained the best impromptu use of PictoChat (feature of the Nintendo DS) that I could think fact, probably the best use of PictoChat period, that alone was enough to amuse me.

A decent supernatural themed book, which hopefully will get better in further installments.

Thoughts on the cover:
I always prefer covers that show a characters whole face, simply because I think cover artists can do so much with a character's eyes, but that's just me. I'm not quite sure of all the focus on the necklaces, they didn't really touch on that too much, so I'm hoping further books will clear that up too.

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