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Friday, January 29, 2010

Review: The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong

Title: The Awakening (and briefly touching on The Summoning)
Author(s): Kelley Armstrong
Genre: YA Paranormal Adventure
Page Count: 360
Publisher: Doubleday Canada

The Review: Now, my dear readers, you may be thinking, what in the world are you doing reviewing a sequel of a novel without having reviewed the first book? I’ll be perfectly honest, my feelings about The Summoning can be summed as ‘meh’ at best and I have nothing particularly constructive to say. (lawl, don’t worry, if you’re still curious about my opinions on The Summoning I give my feelings on that subject a nod in a whole paragraph of this uber long review.) The Summoning was one of those novels that I would have never bothered reading anything more by the author except for the fact that my really good friend lent me the two books in one go and I feel like I should at least try them both before dismissing this series all together. Also, at the time when I first read The Awakening, it was either read what seems to be a mediocre sequel or work on my essay.

On retrospect, I should have just worked on my essay. If The Summoning was a lacklustre premise with minor moments of me eye-twitching at the text, well, The Awakening was… To put it nicely, at least this time around this novel got a deep reaction out of me. Enough so that I have things to rant about to write for a review.

WARNING: As I am discussing the sequel of the novel there will obviously be some spoilers that I've decided to not put under a spoiler highlight tag. But some of these spoilers I consider a matter of Public Service, so whatever. But for the uber spoiler phobic I'm putting the rest of this entry below under cut. =D

Okay, to backtrack a bit. I might as well have my two cents on The Summoning here, since a lot of my problems with The Awakening were mostly factors from the first novel that got amplified at an exponential rate in its sequel. The beginning of the novel pre-Asylum was okay though a bit lacking in the oomph I thought it should have as it depicted the horror-ish scenes. Then, we got to the Asylum and my inner warning bell started ringing like crazy when we were introduced to a character called Simon with “almond shaped eyes”, (and everyone should know right now how I feel about THAT particular choice of “adjectives”) There were a few moments wherein I had to close my eyes a bit but there were no scenes that made me want to actually hurl the book at a wall. (Trust me, I’ve done this before with books I hated. Literally.) The worst you could say about that novel was that it wasn’t engaging enough. While the pacing and writing was snappy enough to keep things moving without my eyes glazing over, I’ve honestly seen this done better by other big name YA authors (Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld). The characters were very cardboard-like for the most part. It felt like I was seeing an idea of a character and what they are supposed to do as opposed to actually feeling like the characters are coming to life. The only character I got a real sense of, a real grasp of their character was Derek, our residential bad boy with Rage Issues, horrid case of acne and secrets. Which is a total shame because I couldn’t give a shit about Derek. Bo ho I can’t control my powers I accidentally flung a girl halfway across the room and maimed a boy for life sans provocation!!! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind my characters being violent and aggressive; what I can’t stand are characters who angst about their tortured, terrible, awful guilt they carry inside and the whole not being able to control his strength spiel. Look at me and my tortured soul, I can’t help being violent PITY ME. (And then it just got worse because it started taking the I ONLY GET VIOLENT TO PROTECT THOSE I LOVE road.) Cry me a fucking river. The only characters I felt like caring about were Simon and Rae, our sole token POC cast of the whole novel. I mean, Simon is a half-Swedish half-Korean pretty boy who gets a B average in school and loves drawing cartoons in his spare time! Rae is a street-wise pyromaniac (Something you outta know about me: I think all scenes in any story are made better by the presence of fire. So… yeah) who is supposed to own her weight and her presence as the only lower-class person in the whole teen Asylum boarding school! HOW CAN THEY NOT BE AWESOME?! But… I couldn’t. Their characters were way too paper-thin for me to get into their heads.

Now, then comes in the sequel. A few chapters in and I was practically screaming at the pages. Specifically at what Armstrong chose to do with Rae. You know what she did to her????? She made her the traitor of the story. Okay, I know that in a lot of these action-packed stories treachery abounds, blah blah blah, but when you made our sole fat, black, lower class girl Rae into the TRAITOR next to our angelic can-do-no-wrong upper class petite blonde lead girl Chloe, that’s when I cry foul. Because it was great to have Rae play to the cool street-wise best black girl friend in the asylum to keep Chloe company but when we run out of uses for her we make her the fucking traitor. Now she’s played as the poor attention-seeking girl who neeeeeeeeeds to be special and has mother issues and now Chloe must SAVE HER FROM HERSELF. Yeah that’s right, I can even quote a million lines wherein Chloe’s like Oh it’s such a pity, Rae just wants attention and love that’s why she’s deluding herself about being special and needed, but I’ll go rescue her from that awful, awful place I escaped from!

And speaking of our lead and narrative voice Chloe, my gawd, I almost hate her as much as Derek by the end of this novel. I felt like, with Chloe, we took two steps forward in the first novel and took a MILLION steps back in the sequel. In the first novel we had this whole bit about Chloe calling Derek out for making her the designated damsel in distress, and then in the sequel we have this whole bit about Tori’s mom saying that Chloe was the instigator but Chloe says that she’s not so much an instigator as a “catalyst”. At which I was overcome by the urge to bang my head against the wall to Make. That. Scene. END. I mean, what’s the whole point of calling out Derek for not being his damsel in distress to facilitate the boys’ storyline of escape and adventure if you’re going to see yourself as a CATALYST. It was like, woohoo look at how I take away agency from myself within my own narrative. And it seriously doesn’t help that Chloe constantly needs Derek nearby to saaaaaaaaaaaaaaave heeeeeeeeeeeeer. And I could seriously puke every time we get talk about how NICE and KIND Chloe is, for staying by Derek’s side during his episodes and caring about poor deluded Rae and not treating Tori like complete dirt. Plucking out my eyes would have probably been a nicer form of torture.

The only saving grace of this whole novel? TORI. Wow, finally a character that’s as properly developed as Derek, but one who I can actually like. Every time she calls Chloe out on her bullshit, I could cry tears of joy. And she’s so delightfully stuck up and “careless and reckless” and oh so cowardly and I love her. It’s an amazing transformation from the first novel. In The Summoning her character didn’t shine through at all, and instead I got more of a cartoonish 2D villain vibe from her (you know, the queen bitch cheerleader type, albeit with angsty mother issues). In The Awakening she really came to life and basically had the best interactions and all the good lines. Any moment without Tori plain and simply sucked, so when the second half of the novel consisted of Derek and Chloe’s solo trip of touching, heartfelt soul bonding and becoming ~*closer*~ to develop into possibly the most disturbing couple I’ve come across in a while, I was whimpering and speeding through the pages going “WHERE DID TORI GO?! I WANT TORI BACK!!! T_______T” (Don’t get me wrong. As far as I’m concerned Derek and Chloe can have each other. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about them but I protest at having the narrative following THEIR storyline only because literally every other person is just more interesting than them.)

Also the dialogue, plot, pacing, etc, were all basically on par with the level in the first novel, so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not exactly expecting an epic turnaround in terms of writing ability for the final book of the trilogy. Or the direction of the storyline in general.

The Verdict: DON’T READ THIS TRILOGY. I know this may sound hypocritical because I’ve read the first two books and am actually going to read the third book (Because I’m clearly masochistic. Also because I need to rage at things, apparently.) but I read this so that y’all DON’T HAVE TO. Don’t do it, really. As much as I love Tori and am going to read the third novel for her and watch the horrific Rae trainwreck that’s almost guaranteed to happen, if I could change things and turn back time, I would refuse to borrow this series from my friend. I repeat, DO NOT READ THIS, and I’d personally be skeptical about everything else by this author. (RAWR AT THE ALMOND EYES. RAAAAAAAAAAAAWR)

Rating: 0/5 (the only reason why there’s no negative numbers is because I considered Tori.)
Enjoyment: 50% (It’d be higher if we didn’t have that Chloe/Derek solo road trip from hell)

Title and Cover Discussion: Er, you honestly can’t expect a pass out of me on this, can you? I mean, even putting my ISSUES with this novel aside, the title of this novel is yet another one of those one-word titles that pretend they aren’t (because “The” makes all the difference, clearly) and it barely fits with what actually happened in the novel. (Unless we’re referring to my awakening of the ISSUES in this whole trilogy, but somehow I don’t think that’s what this title was going for.) And ugh, more faceless covers. Moreover it’s another one of those generic white girl holding pretty object in hand types that are plaguing the YA shelves. (They’re everywheeeeeeeeeeeeeere) Though I was close to considering giving the cover a pass due to me actually liking the blue stone and ribbon in hand if I ignore the background, but I can’t see beyond my hate. Such is my black-hearted disposition.

Title: F
Cover: F

Note: Please don't consider trying to make me change my mind about my dislike of this novel if you enjoyed it. I respect the fact that many people liked this series (heck my close friend liked it and I'm not judging her. Okay, maybe a little. LULZ jks) and I can see why. As I said, I can see that it has very snappy writing that can be fun to get into, but I am not going to somehow change my gut reaction to this novel.


ninefly said...

lol, was this the book the-friend-with-the-rumored-date (shall not mention names here XD;) lent you?
I was scared away by the horrible photoshop skin-render and title, and I'm SO glad I stayed away lol
you're my (pseudo-)official book-testing dummy now LOL

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

lawl yeah. =D (I don't judge her I swear!)

christa @ mental foodie said...

your review is too funny :) you made me want to read them just to see if they are really that bad lol. i think i'll pass tho, there are too many other books out there :) thanks for the warning!

MissAttitude said...

Whoa, heated, very well-written review right here :) Ok if I wrote a book, I would not want to review it because you might make me cry, lol. jkjk. Thank you for explaining why you didn't like the book, I know many people enjoy the series a lot. I was never interested in the storyline and I agree that the cover is very generic.

I hope the next book you review is one you like better!

Book Crazy Jenn said...

Goodness LOL - I have this series, but have yet to read it...guess now I will wait till one of those days when I got NOTHING else LOL! I liked your review, refreshing and honest!

Aubrey (AKA Stacey) said...

I admit that I didn't read the whole thing because I didn't want to read all the spoilers, but it does seem like you reacted strongly to this book! Thank you for your honest opinion, it is rare I see someone review a book and hate it so much, I agree with Jenn above, it's refreshing actually!

(found you from the Saturday network)

Ari said...

Eek the spoilers they burn! But i still liked it :D

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Thank you for participating in The Saturday Network!
And, wow, very enthusiastic review. I haven't read this yet, err, but I don't think I'm going to. I skipped the middle part because I'm spoiler phobic, but I definitely saw all those CAPS and exclamation marks. AGHH, this seems like those kind of series that makes you keep on reading it to find what happens though you KNOW you won't really enjoy the next book. Thanks! :D

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...


LAWL, that's assuming that I won't like it though. (Don't worry, if I do hate it, I'll try to break it to you relatively nicely... And maybe lie a bit here and there. >D)

@Aubrey and Crazy Book Jenn,

lol I'm glad you found my review refreshing and honest. =D Nicest compliment ever.


lawl glad you liked.


Oh yeah, it was one of those trainwreck books. You know it'll be awful and you kinda hate yourself but you can't look away.

Emma said...

I actually really liked this book, but you made some EXCELLENT points.

Awesome review.

MissAttitude said...

Well, be honest with me, that's always better, I'll just cry myself to sleep after I read the review :'( lol