Book Review:The Summoning

Author: Kelley Armstrong. Book 1 in Darkest Powers Trilogy

Summary from back of book : All Chloe Saunders wants is a life like any normal teenager – the chance to get through school, make friends, and maybe meet a boy. But when she starts seeing ghosts, she knows that like will never be the same again. Soon the ghosts are everywhere, demanding her attention. When Chloe finally breaks down, she’s admitted to a group home for disturbed kids. At first Lyle House seems okay, but as she gets to know the other patients – charming Simon and his ominous, unsmiling brother Derek; obnoxious Tori; and Rae, who has a ‘thing’ for fire – Chloe begins to realise that something strange and sinister binds them all together, and it isn’t your usual ‘problem kid’ behaviour. And they’re about to discover that Lyle House is not your usual group home, either…

I have to be honest, when I read the first sentence of the blurb on the back I groaned. The promise of reading about the wailing's of an emotional teenage girl who freaks out about boys and ghosts in equal measure doesn't sound like a tea party to me...However I am a persistent and dedicated individual and thus persevered in the event of reading this book.
Incidentally I was most pleased.
I am familiar with Kelley Armstrong's previous work (more specifically her supernatural adult genre material like Bitten) and although enjoyable, I wouldn't say they are the most inventive stories in the land (Too much romping, too little plot). This is in fact her first dip into the young adult market, at a time where anything vaguely paranormal will see thousands of hormonal girls leaping in glee to find the next Edward Cullen....but thwarted they will be!
Instead of the stereotypical angst ridden heroine I expected, we are presented with a very grounded, very plain individual, with a menargie of quite commendable interests including film making and generally being inherently normal. The story is told narrated by Chloe herself, and we begin to learn of her world at school, and her reflections on the people in and around her life. There is a bit of a backstory to set the scene for the coming events involving her realizing her powers to see dead people, but its generally well paced, and detailed.
Suddenly thrust into a secure home after a chilling scene, Chloe is presented with a strange collection of people who are also in residence. Alot of the thoughts she has of self doubt and resentment towards being labelled- although here perhaps in relation to her mental status- are resonant with the feelings of "growing up", thus Kelley has cleverly thrown in points set to relate to the teenage market, allowing empathy to grow with our protagonist and a few of the friends she makes.
Chloe is then led through an interesting few weeks involving mysteries and secrets and ultimately deciding who and what she is. She is not alone in being "different", although the others are quite different in the abilities they present.
I particularly enjoyed some of the more atmospheric scenes and there were indeed some very tense and surprising moments. The narrator continues to be rather normal, but she does tend to skip between being confused and weak, to resilient and strong willed- I do wish she'd make her mind up- although I really did like the way she copes with awkward and scary situations. This is mostly by pretending she's on a film set and acting director- therefore putting yourself out of the picture and judging it for its set ups and flaws (this is something I've been doing for years- its probably why I have become immune to all sorts of horror, as I sit there analyzing the bad-guy and critiquing actions and special effects). She also deals with confrontations by using movie references and screenplay techniques- typically like "If this is like Psycho, that loon is lurking in the basement- so I better not dawdle there".
The assortment of additional characters are not the stereotypical lot either, all have massive flaws, and none are particularly "dreamy". In fact the guy that you most want Chloe to like is totally odd looking and tends to have massive rage theres interesting writing for you!
The plot is varied, and keeps you entertained right down the the last chapter- which leads you straight to a cliffhanger situation that wafts aromas of "buy the next book people!"....To be fair I will most likely give it a read....It promises tales of beasts and ghouls!

All in all, a refreshing jaunt into the young adult district which I so guiltily enjoy reading- It's well thought out and quite unusual in its ideas and concepts- this review has not revealed the majority of the plot, so if you do indulge you will be pleasantly surprised. Edgy and sharp without the unnecessary token swearing and romance. Congrats Miss Armstrong, your in my good books.