The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

Written by: Kelley Armstrong
Published by: HarperCollins

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong is just another one of those “girl gets her period, girl starts seeing ghosts, girl gets diagnosed with schizophrenia before realizing she is actually seeing dead people and they can see her back” books. After seeing the ghost of a janitor at school, Chloe Saunders goes kind of nuts and runs raving through the halls. She’s then sent off to the Lyle House–essentially a halfway house for mentally disturbed teens. It doesn’t take long before Chloe is balking against her diagnosis, and it becomes apparent that Lyle House is more than it seems with the other teenagers hiding secrets of their own.

Unfortunately, the book suffers from a hyper-attention to unimportant details. The majority of things the author chooses to put focus on only serve to bounce the reader out of the world she’s trying to create. By mentioning specific dates, technology, websites, etc., it will only serve to date the book that much faster. Knowing that someone died in 1991, and that this was before the protagonist was born, only functions to make non-teenage readers feel ancient. Yes, it’s a YA novel, but not all readers are going to be teenagers; by simply pushing the dates back, she could have made it far more accessible to adults. It’s obvious that Armstrong’s trying to make the details realistic, but it comes off as trying too hard to prove she’s in touch with “those kids today.” Reading about a Nintendo DS and PictoChat is like listening to your mom talk about “getting jiggy with it”–in other words, simply cringe-worthy.

The story itself is pretty slow, and the book suffers from “first in the series” syndrome: a lot of back story and trying to discover the truth behind what all the kids are doing at Lyle House. Throughout the book, many of the scenes felt like filler: there was a lot of classwork description and chores, but not much attention put on the possible supernatural aspect of Chloe and the other kids. The first half of the book came across as a blatant attempt to fill the story out in order to make a sequel necessary.

Despite all this, the story has a lot of potential, and parts are a fun read. The main character, for the most part, is believable and her reactions to her situation come off as genuine. The actual mystery surrounding the kids at Lyle House is intriguing and leaves you wanting to know more. The closer the book gets to the end, the more fast-paced and exciting it gets, and it’s really enjoyable. I just wished there had been more of that at the beginning. In fact, I enjoyed the ending enough to go check out the second book in the series.

If you’re able to look past the pandering to teenagers and make it to the second half of the book, you’ll find an engaging story and some decent twists to what would otherwise be a pretty basic YA supernatural story. Also, on the plus side, there’s no romance to speak of, which is a nice change of pace for the majority of YA novels I’ve read.

All in all, I would recommend checking this book out from your local library before shelling out the cash for it.