Friday, September 3, 2010

The Awakening (book) by Kelley Armstrong

I have a tendency to forget that certain authors are on my "must read" list. That happened with Kelley Armstrong, so I'm a bit behind on her books. I put several of the ones I've missed on hold, and this was one of them. I'm looking forward to reading more, but I have to say, I prefer Armstrong's books aimed at adults. The characters in her YA books just don't seem to stick in my mind quite as well.

Synopsis:

Chloe has been captured by the people at Lyle House, who are actually part of something called the Edison Group. She discovers that she and the other teens at Lyle House were part of an experiment to see if a few genetic alterations could allow supernaturals to grow up with all the benefits and none of the drawbacks of whatever they are. For some of the "subjects," the genetic alterations did make supernatural puberty easier, but they also turned out to be considerably less powerful than they should have been (like Rae, whose powers are so weak that, for the longest time, it didn't even seem like she had any). Others, like Chloe, just became more powerful and, probably, more susceptible to the drawbacks of their abilities (in Chloe's case, eventual madness).

Chloe had thought that Tori had been the one who had gotten her captured, so she doesn't want to believe it when she learns that Rae was really the one who was responsible. Rae didn't do it out of malice, though - she just really wants to have powers, and she doesn't yet believe that Lyle House is a bad place. Still, when Chloe escapes, she only does so with Tori, not even trying to get Rae to come with her. Chloe's Aunt Lauren helps them escape, but she's caught while doing so - it's unclear whether she is hurt or killed for her betrayal of the Edison Group.

Chloe wants to meet up with Derek and Simon, but Tori would rather go off on her own and be reunited with her father. Unfortunately for Tori, it looks like her father is on the Edison Group's side, so, for now at least, she's stuck with Chloe and the others. Soon they're all together again, although Simon and Derek aren't really happy that Chloe has Tori with her.

Simon and Derek still want to find their father (technically, Simon's father) and decide that the best way to do that is to find their father's friend Andrew first. However, they have a problem - Chloe's father, who is completely unaware of the Edison Group and the trouble his daughter is in, is trying to find her and offering a huge reward. While it's great that he loves his daughter and is looking for her, if he finds her, Chloe will only end up dragging him into the same danger she's in. She's got to stay out of sight, but that's hard when Tori seems determined to do things her own way. Chloe tries to help her stay out of trouble and gets spotted as "the rich guy's missing daughter" in the process.

The whole group buys bus tickets, which would have worked out nicely if Derek hadn't started to feel his first Change come on during a rest stop. Although he's had false alarms before, he gets off just in case, with Chloe for company. Derek partially Changes, but it seems as though a full Change is still beyond him, and he eventually falls asleep, exhausted by the effort.

Over the course of the book up to this point, Chloe has come to the horrific realization that she really needs to learn how to control her abilities. She accidentally raises animals and, once, even a human from the dead, trapping their souls inside rotting, deteriorated bodies until she can figure out how to lay them to rest again. The experiences horrify her, and she becomes afraid to fall asleep, afraid that she'll raise something from the dead without realizing it. She stays awake the whole night after Derek's failed Change, because she seems the ghost of a murdered girl and is afraid that she'll accidentally raise her from the dead while she's asleep.

When Derek wakes up, the two of them try to catch up to Simon and Tori. They don't have money for another bus ticket from where they are, so they hitchhike a little of the way. They also accidentally come across a couple mutts, werewolves who aren't part of the Pack, and it becomes clear that, although Derek is more than a match for most humans, he doesn't yet have the skills to win in a fight against a full-grown werewolf. They manage to escape anyway and catch up with Tori and Simon at Andrew's house. Unfortunately, it looks like the Edison Group may have found Andrew.

Although it's probably dangerous to stay too long, everybody needs to rest. At one point, Derek learns the extent of Chloe's fears about her powers (he hadn't realized that she could accidentally raise dead animals, too), so he decides to help her practice controlling her abilities by finding her some animal bodies. Because of his werewolf nature and his analytical mind, Derek isn't particularly bothered by what Chloe can do. While they're out practicing, however, Chloe is grazed by a bullet - it looks like the Edison Group's hunters are back.

The whole group manages to either evade the hunters or, if they get caught, escape. Chloe sees what she thinks may be Aunt Lauren's ghost, but, before she can worry about that too much, she and the others find Andrew. Andrew takes them all to a place under the control of people who oppose the Edison Group (and the Cabals and other supernatural organizations).

Commentary:

I couldn't help but feel bad for Chloe several times in this book - she kept getting humiliated in ways that would just kill many teen girls. For instance, Derek buys her a boy's sweatshirt, because it's cheaper, but the implication is that she's as flat-chested as a boy. Also, Derek gets her flat black hair dye that just looks horrible.  Actually, it seems like any time Derek does anything, he upsets Chloe - except when he and Chloe have a Moment.

Yes, while Chloe still spends time wondering and worrying over whether Simon likes her, it's starting to look like the guy she's really going to end up with is Derek. Unfortunately, she still seems oblivious to the growing connection between herself and Derek. Unlike Tori, who thinks Derek and his werewolf abilities are a bit freaky, Chloe thinks he's starting to look a bit better and definitely physically older than his actual age. She also doesn't seem to mind being around him when he's trying to Change. Chloe and Derek's Moments were frequent enough to have the fangirl in me squealing with joy - I just found myself wishing that something could have come of those moments. The one part that seemed to confirm future romantic goodness was when one of the werewolves Chloe and Derek met said something about Chloe being Derek's mate. Now, he could have just mistaken Derek's protectiveness for something more, but I prefer to think that's not the case. I think that Derek is just terrible at talking about and analyzing his own feelings, which is why their relationship hasn't gotten anywhere. Plus, Chloe's still stuck on Simon. I think, however, that even Simon notices how much closer Chloe and Derek have gotten once the whole group meets up again at Andrew's house.

Simon may be more naturally charming than Derek and probably more photogenic (less acne), but I still find Derek more interesting than him and more appealing. There's something that I like (in books at least) about scowling, socially awkward guys. I can't wait until Chloe finally wises up to the chemistry between her and Derek, although I feel a bit bad about Simon. I wonder if he's going to end up with Tori, though? After all, he and Tori seemed to be protesting a bit too much when Andrew mistook them for a couple at the end of the book.

I thought the bit where Derek got all upset when people laughed at Chloe for apparently talking to herself (she had been talking to the ghost of an elderly lady, who she hadn't realized was a ghost) was sweet and sad. It's also evident that, if Chloe doesn't figure out her abilities soon, she's going to go stark raving loony. But it's sweet that Derek will probably stick by her, no matter what.

And, speaking of going stark raving loony, Chloe is going to need to meet up with Jamie or some other necromancer soon if she wants to learn how to prevent (or at least put off) herself going insane and learn how not to raise her very own zombie army.  I really hope that the person she gets to meet in Jamie, and not some random other necromancer, because that would be the perfect opportunity for cameos from some of the Pack members.  I have a feeling that Derek and Clay might get along fairly well.  Either that, or they'd spend the whole time staring at each other warily.

Overall, not a bad book, I guess, but that could just my anticipation of future events talking.  I cannot wait until there's more in the way of romance between Chloe and Derek.

This is my very first post trying out the Amazon Product Finder gadget.  As far as I know, I haven't signed up to be an Amazon Associate and you don't need to do that in order to use the gadget, so using one of my links doesn't actually support this blog, but I do like being able to search for the books I'm going to link to right within Blogger.  I'm debating whether to use the image feature. On the one hand, it'd make it a lot easier to get images for my posts.  On the other hand, those images are tiny.  We'll see.

Read-alikes:
  • The Strange Power (book) by L.J. Smith - Teenagers with strange powers invited to take part in special testing and live at a special institution - only things are not as they seem!  Adults are not to be trusted! And there's romance!  Man, I loved L.J. Smith when I was a teen, and the dark, broody hero in this one is great.  Anyone looking for another YA book (in this case, part of a short series) with a similar setup and slightly more emphasis on romance might want to try this.  L.J. Smith is, by the way, the author of the series that spawned the TV show The Vampire Diaries - now try reading her books!
  • Blood and Chocolate (book) by Annette Curtis Klause - Anyone who'd like a YA book with way more werewolf action might want to try this.  It focuses on a teen girl who happens to be a werewolf.  Her pack is trying to rebuild itself and go back to being safely unnoticed after a bad clash with some humans nearly wiped it out.  Unfortunately, the main character has fallen in love with a human boy.  As if her life wasn't already complicated enough, she has also caught the interest of the werewolf most likely to take over the pack.  I gotta say, I was totally rooting for the werewolf guy when I first read this book, and only more so when I reread it several years later.  There's a movie version, too, but it has almost nothing in common with this book and, quite frankly, sucks.  Forget the movie exists and just read the book.
  • Hawksong (book) by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes - It's been a while since I read this, but I remember that there was something about the writing that made this feel like it was set in some kind of pseudo-medieval times, although I don't know if that's actually the book's setting.  It could just be that the writing is bad.  But, oh, if you're looking for something with shapeshifters, suspense, and romance (in this case, with a side of angst) this may be just what you need.  If I remember right, it's like Romeo and Juliet, only with bird and snake shapeshifters.
  • Try one of Kelley Armstrong's books written for adults.  Since I'm partial to her werewolves, I recommend Bitten.  Since this is also the first book in her Women of the Otherworld series, it's a good place to start in general, even if you don't care one way or another about werewolves.
  • Gen 13: Who They Are and How They Came to Be (graphic novel) written by Brandon Choi and Jim Lee, art by J. Scott Campbell - Ok, I think this is the very beginning of the Gen13 series, but I could be wrong.  The Gen 13 teens are another super-powered bunch who end up on the run from some villainous adults.  There is, of course, a bit of romance here and there.  Also, because it is an American superhero-type comic, there are skintight outfits, male characters with impressive muscles, and female characters with impressive everything.  Whatever.  When I was in high school, I loved this comic.  I pooled all my meager spending money and braved the "boys only" club that was the nearest comic books store in order to buy all the issues I could.  Those who don't mind something in this format and would like something else with a similar setup might want to try this.

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