CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 22. . . .June 26, 2009
The Awakening. (The Darkest Powers Series, Book 2).
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2009.
360 pp., pbk., $16.95.
Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.
Review by Jennifer Draper.
"If there's anything I can do—I know there probably isn't but..."
"Just be here."
"That I can manage." I realized that his skin hadn't rippled in a while.
"And we might not even have to worry about it. It seems to be passing. False start, maybe. We should give it a few more minutes, then-"
His back shot up, body jackknifing as he let out a strangled cry. He managed two panting breaths before convulsing again. His arms and legs went rigid. His back arched to an unnatural height, spine jutting. His head dropped forward. His skin rippled and his back went even higher. A long whimper bubbled from his throat.
His head flew up and, for a second, his eyes met mine, wild and rolling with pain and terror, even more than the first time... The muscles bulged and shifted. Coarse hair sprouted and pushed against my palm, then retreated. I rubbed his hand and moved closer and whispered it would be okay, he was doing fine.
The Awakening, the second in "The Darkest Powers Series," continues the story begun in The Summoning of a group of teens with supernatural powers. The main character, Chole, is a necromancer—she can literally raise the dead. She and the other teens are first held captive, then hunted by the Edison group. This group was supposed to exist to assist supernaturals through scientific research and experiment. The teens were a genetic experiment, and, if the scientists don't think they are a success, the "subjects" are terminated. In the first book, the Edison group attempted to have the subjects raised as normal children, unaware of their special powers. But when they come into their powers violently at adolescence, then the subject are whisked away to a group home and told they are suffering from a mental illness. After all, no sane person sees dead people, right? In this book, the Edison group gives up the pretext of mental illness and decides to train the teens in their powers—under lock and key.
There are a number of things that are brought up in The Awakening, Chole no longer knows whom to trust, having been betrayed by her aunt in the first book. Adults are very rarely reliable, and, throughout the book, readers see Chole gradually changing from an upper-middle class naïveté to a more street smart youth. Being homeless is no picnic, and this is a point made a number of times. After Chole is attacked by a gang of girls, she starts carrying a switchblade. She realizes that looks are not the most important thing in a friend. Derek, the huge and pimply werewolf, is slowly becoming a person not an exterior. She starts to see past the outside and appreciate the person within.
Even though the premise is fantastic, the book is believable. This is how teens would react in a similar situation. After a few chapters, the powers of the teens don't seem so farfetched. The book keeps a steady stream of action and character development. While the teens are running, their relationships become increasing more complex, and a subtle subplot arises. Chole unwittingly attracts the attention of two of the teen boys—brothers—and has ended up in a romantic triangle she is totally clueless about. Spell casting and zombie raising, missing friends and dead relatives, all create a complex and thoroughly satisfying read. Armstrong has made the transition from writing adult para-normal books to writing YA very well.
Jennifer Draper is a librarian/children's literature aficionado living in Oshawa, ON.
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