Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > The Awakening

The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
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's review
Apr 30, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009, horror, ya, shape-shifters, urban-fantasy
Read in April, 2009

I've done my best to keep spoilers for the previous book to a minimum, but if you haven't read The Summoning, you should start there.

The Awakening picks up pretty much where the last book left off, with Chloe and Rae prisoners of the people who were running Lyle House, only now they're in what looks like a bunker. Simon and Derek are still on the loose but Tori has also been moved. Chloe learns that her aunt Lauren, Dr Gill, Dr Davidoff and others are part of a group called the Edison Group, most of them supernaturals themselves who experimented on their own offspring and that of others, genetically mutating them in an effort to help them "fit into" society better. They kept them ignorant and those that couldn't be "rehabilitated" were killed - like Liz.

Escaping from the Edison Group, Chloe and Tori are reunited with Derek and Simon. Simon has had no luck finding his dad, Kit, with the spell, and so they decide to try Kit's old friend and emergency contact, Andrew, who lives outside New York. Getting there is far from simple though, with the Edison Group on the hunt for them and Chloe's dad putting her picture and a reward in the paper. Not only that, but Chloe inadvertently raises the dead and Derek's werewolf side poses problems.

I was really slow, while reading the first book just before picking up this one, in realising that this series is set in the same contemporary world as Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series. This is essentially the YA version, with new and younger characters and a new angle. The first book established some highly engaging characters in Chloe, Derek, Simon, Tori and the others, who continue to develop in the sequel. There are more chilling moments when Chloe accidentally raises zombies and sees a girl having her throat slit over and over again, but as someone who's no fan of horror, the scenes were terrifying without being off-putting or too gruesome.

The story is never boring, which is worth mentioning because as with a lot of YA novels, we get a lot of details about relatively mundane things. A lot is cramped into a short space of time - the first book covered a week, though it felt longer, and this one covers about the same, only because they never get any real sleep time stretches out and is hard to keep track of. But for realism, you need those details. With Chloe's engaging narration, every detail is fascinating because her world, her situation is fascinating. It's a survival story, and the details matter.

Chloe's an interesting choice for narrator - a quiet girl, tiny in stature and only just fifteen. Tori makes some acidic comments about her that help us get perspective, even if they make us more sympathetic towards Chloe. She has fire when she needs it, stands up for herself despite the occasional stammer when she gets nervous, but hasn't suddenly developed amazing fighting skills or worldly wisdom. She's a sheltered girl suddenly living on the streets, and it's true that the boys are over-protective of her. But you can't help liking Chloe, sympathising with her, empathising and understanding her.

Derek's another engaging character, complex and independent of the author. He's one of those characters whom you just know wrote himself - no one else would be able to do a good enough job! It's apparent that something pretty special is slowly building between him and Chloe, but Armstrong isn't rushing it, and it's a long process to understand Derek and his abrupt, pushy, arrogant attitude. And it's nice to see them gradually grow closer and trust each other.

Armstrong's prose is as strong and smooth as ever, even clipped to YA style as it is. There are still some unexplained things, such as the pendant necklace that Chloe's mother gave her and why it's changed colour, and I confess I don't really understand the motives behind the Edison Group's experiment because they don't make sense to me. I felt that this book could have been longer and covered more ground, though it ended at a good spot. It's just that the overall story doesn't make a great deal of progress here. What I did get was lots of character development, which I love. So no real complaints.
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