Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review: The Gathering by Kelly Armstrong

When Kelly Armstrong burst onto the YA scene in 2008 with the first book of her Darkest Powers trilogy, I was completely blown away by how good it actually was. I was expecting a generic paranormal teen, but it moved quickly, was well-thought out, and ended on a cliff-hanger that had me impatient for the next. Unfortunately, her new trilogy didn't do the same for me.

The story takes place in a small medical research town called Salmon Creek on Vancouver Island. In fact, it's so small, you won't find it anywhere on a map, and the residents number 200. Sixty Eight kids from K-12 attend the local school, including Maya, the novel's protagonist. Ever since Maya's best friend Serena , captain of the swim team, mysteriously drowns in a calm lake, strange things have been happening in the town. Mountain lions are being spotted closer and closer to the town, and her best friend Daniel has been experiencing powerful premonitions about people and situations. To make matters more complicated, Maya finds herself strangely attracted to Rafe, the new bad boy around town, who is harbouring secrets of his own.

Don't get me wrong- it isn't a bad book by any means, and there is a lot to like about it. Maya is strong, smart, and independent. She also seems to have an ability to heal animals, though she doesn't fully understand how. There are lots of supernatural elements to keep readers engaged, and I liked the ties to Native mythology. I enjoyed Maya's relationship with her adoptive parents and her friends, and the fact that she had a guy pal, who was just a pal and not a romantic interest. It would have been very easy for the author to try and push them together, but that wasn't the case. He's protective of her in a plutonic sort of way, and Maya genuinely wants him to get past Serena's death and find a new girlfriend.

There are also a few weaknesses in the novel, the biggest one being the relationship that develops between Maya and Rafe. Rafe is a reputed bad boy, and outsider, and he has a reputation for being a player. For the first half of the book Maya doesn't want anything to do with him, and when they do get together, it feels contrived. The author needs them together to move the story forward, but I just couldn't buy that she would accept him so quickly.

I also felt like the pacing was off, and maybe that's a personal preference. In her previous books, the plot unfolded very quickly, and here it takes a lot more time before anything happens. I figured out reasonably quickly where the story was going, and I kept wondering when she was going to get there. By the time she did, I was mildly annoyed, feeling like she'd tried to introduce too many plot points at the end of the book. Still, fans of paranormal romance will likely enjoy the book and stick with the trilogy. There are a couple of mature situations (Someone spikes Maya's drink and she makes out a bit with Rafe) but nothing overly graphic that would make this inappropriate for 7th and 8th graders.