Kelley Armstrong’s The Summoning

I have to thank my Stonecoast friends for directing me toward Kelley Armstrong. I just finished the second book in her Darkest Powers series and they are a little addicting. Below is my review of the first Darkest Powers book: The Summoning.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong is an engrossing read that puts an unexpected twist on the story of teens struggling with mental health issues.

Chloe Saunders seems like a typical teenager; she dreams of being a director, actively participates in her performing art school’s film club, and worries about getting her first period. Chloe thought her days of fearing the dark were over, until she has a horrific encounter with the ghost of a janitor at her school. Chloe’s absentee father and her Aunt Lauren decide to place her in a mental health facility for teens. At Lyle House, Chloe tries her best not to make waves, and say the right things to get released as soon as possible.

the-summoningBut there are a lot of rules at Lyle House, and following them is difficult when some of the other residents seem to have it in for her. One night, Chloe’s roommate Liz proves that she can make objects move with her mind. The following day, Liz is taken away by men in white coats. At first, Chloe is upset to lose her friend, but then she becomes concerned when Liz appears to her like a ghost. After being trapped in Lyle’s House’s spooky basement, a terrified Chloe inadvertently discovers her ability to raise the dead and speak to them. As if raising bodies buried in the basement wasn’t bad enough, the corpses make her suspect that Lyle House is not the healing place she thought it was. Instead, it is a place for experimenting on teens with supernatural gifts.

With the help of her new allies–Simon, a sorcerer, Derek, a werewolf, and Rae, a witch–Chloe escapes the confines of Lyle House to find help. But when every adult seems to be in on the conspiracy, the teens don’t get far. An ambush forces the group to split up, and Chloe is captured by the people who run Lyle House. Among them is her Aunt Lauren. As the novel closes, Chloe feels alone, confused, and betrayed, but not powerless. Though it remains to be seen how Chloe plans to use her necromancing abilities to get free, it’s safe to assume it will involve zombies.

As a reader and a writer, character can make or break a story for me. One of the strengths in Armstrong’s novel is her characterization, especially that of the story’s heroine, Chloe. I connected with Chloe in the first two chapters because, unlike a lot of YA characters in fantasy, she was more than the sum of her supernatural abilities. She had a sad childhood, like other YA protagonists, but she also had something she was passionate about in a realistic, teenage way. Before being sent to Lyle House, Chloe was confident that her future involved filmmaking. By providing that insight into her hopes and dreams, I felt that the author had crafted a well-rounded character.

My one complaint about the novel is that the prologue, written in third person point of view from the perspective of a young Chloe, seems out of place, as the rest of the novel is told in first person. The shift from the prologue to the first chapter is jarring, not just because of the twelve year jump in time, but also because I had to adjust to the new point of view. I preferred the first person p.o.v., because I found the third person narrator explaining Chloe’s childlike thoughts extremely irritating. I nearly put down the book then and there, but I am glad I stuck with it.

Armstrong’s pacing, character development and plot twists were executed with flair. I thought  was a captivating read that shared similar elements to my own YA novel in progress. The protagonist of my WIP is a teenage girl who thinks she is hallucinating in school, but later finds out that she has a supernatural ability. The reader will finish the novel wanting to know more about Chloe, her friends, and the mysterious machinations of Lyle House. I would recommend the other two books in Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy, as I plan to read them myself.

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Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

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