Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong - Book Review

My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again.

All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don't even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost - and the ghost saw me.

Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won't leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a "special home" for troubled teens. Yet the home isn't what it seems. Don't tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? it's up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House...before its skeletons come back to haunt me.

For some reason, my expectations for this one weren’t that high going in.  Something about a girl seeing ghosts, thrown into a co-ed mental facility for teenagers, who finds out things aren’t as they seem just screams PARANORMAL ROMANCE, which is pretty much synonymous with cliché and cheesy these days.  But I’d seen a few good reviews on GR for it, from some trusted reviewers, and I was able to get it in hardback (which is so much prettier on my shelf than a paperback) for crazy cheap, so I decided to take the chance.

And boy, am I glad that I did.

It starts off about how I’d expected; girl sees ghosts, girl goes a bit psycho, girl gets thrown into a group home for crazy kids.  There were a few scenes in the first fifty pages or so that only reinforced my initial expectations, most especially one featuring Chloe’s very first period.  (I mean seriously, who gets excited to find that in your panties in the middle of a school day?  And since when does a girl getting her first period feel like she just peed herself?  Please.)  But it didn’t take long for these bumps to smooth right on out, and for my grudging admiration to morph into total immersion of the story.

What caught me most off guard with its awesomeness was the characterization.  Kelley Armstrong managed to take stereotypical characters, throw them into her novel, then strip everything “stereotypical” about them away.  Minus those first few pages, all the annoying, eye-rollingly bad decisions authors make regarding their characters were blessedly absent in The Summoning.  Chloe Saunders is a very realized protagonist, a drama student whose knowledge of movies and comparisons between them and her real life adds a surprising level of believability to the book, and proves that Armstrong knows the difference between what would happen in movies and what would actually happen in real life…you know, if you could see ghosts in real life.

The other main characters, stepbrothers Simon and Derek, were great, too.  They added a hint of a romance to come, without actually supplying it in this book.  In The Summoning, their primary purpose was to add this intense level of mystery that slowly, layer by layer, gets revealed.  Their character development, especially Derek’s, was so satisfying that they completely overshadowed the fourth main character, pyromaniac Rae.  Rae was the only character in The Summoning that didn’t feel three-dimensional, but that’s not to say she was a totally flat character; she just wasn’t up to the level of the stepbrothers.

Unfortunately, the beginning of this book wasn’t the only problem I had with it.  The ending left something to be desired, as well.  Oh, it was action-packed and extremely readable, but the way Armstrong chose to end it was just…not fair.  I’ve said in previous reviews that the sudden surge of paranormal YA cliffhangers has gotten out of hand, and The Summoning is a perfect example of this.  These aren’t cliffhanger endings, because that would imply that they’re endings.  There is no ending to this book.  I’ve come to expect it when I start a new series, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.  And I doubt I’ll stop grumbling about it until we go back to the old days, where first-in-a-series books at least resolved a major conflict, then left a broader one open by way of cliffhanger.

Still, I’m overall very happy with my reading experience with this one, and would most definitely recommend it to fans of the genre.  It won’t be long until I have The Awakening in my greedy hands, eager to return to these characters, especially Derek, and to find the closure The Summoning was sorely lacking.

The Summoning - 4 out of 5 stars

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