Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: "The Awakening" by Kelly Armstrong

Grade 9 Up—When Chloe Saunders escapes from a group home for troubled teens, she has no idea that she'll be dealing with a treacherous aunt; a nascent werewolf; a prissy witch; guns, guards, and ghosts; and the harsh everyday realities of being a teen on the run. She'd come to terms with the fact that the home was obviously not your run-of-the-mill state facility, or she wouldn't have discovered her powers as a necromancer or found the witch, Tori; the warlock, Simon; and the werewolf, Derek, also in residence. Now the four of them and the ghost of the recently deceased telekinetic Liz, are trying to find the one adult who can help them. Things are complicated by Simon's diabetes, Derek's imminent transformation, and Tori, who, despite her magical powers, is best described by a different word, which rhymes with witch. Armstrong does an admirable job of walking the fine line between making things too easy for the group and putting unnecessary obstacles in their path. Separating them from the adults, she delves into character and relationships among the teens, giving this title a depth that some supernatural fare lacks. It is easy to read out of sequence, and even surpasses its predecessor, The Summoning (HarperCollins, 2008). If you buy it, teens will read it.—Cara von Wrangel Kinsey, formerly at New York Public Library END --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
I really enjoyed the Darkest Powers trilogy. The Awakening is a fun book, but it serves to move the plot along for the trilogy and not as a stand-alone for sure. There were more of the things I enjoyed about the first book: chilling ghost encounters, fast-paced action, characters with ambiguous motives, and a tiny hint of romance. This is very much a plot-driven book. If you're looking for intense character development, this isn't the novel for you. I kept thinking it would make a good hour long TV show, with each book comprising a couple of episodes and the whole series making up one season of shows. Armstrong has a writing style that makes it easy to visualize the action, and I really felt like I could see everything in my mind as if it were on a screen. Maybe that's due in part to Chloe's love for and frequent references to movies and directing. I really love her snarky inner voice that tells her what would be happening if this were a movie or what she would say to herself if she were a character in a movie.
Chloe's nemesis Tori is in this book a lot, so if you aren't a fan of bickering....well, there's a good deal when Tori joins the gang for their escape from the Edison Group lab. The action of the story comes primarily from their flight and attempt to find a safe house. I really enjoyed Chloe and Derek's solo trek when they are separated from Tori and Simon. (Could've done without so much vomiting...Derek and his Change get pretty gross.)
Derek's character probably shows the most growth in the book, and although he's still a prickly guy I kind of appreciated that about him. I didn't enjoy what this story did with Rae, but it made sense after the last one. The fact that we still have no idea what the necklace is all about bothered me. I finished The Awakening in just a few hours and fortunately it doesn't end on such a dramatic cliffhanger as The Summoning did. There's more closure with this book. I still went out and immediately got the final book in the trilogy, The Reckoning. I just had to know what happened, and to me that's the sign of a successful series.

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