Wednesday, July 22, 2009

At least it's not the usual superpower ...

A late bloomer, Chloe Saunders has been quietly attending A.R. Gurney High School for the Arts in Buffalo, New York, when her first period finally arrives. After making the usual emergency adjustments, she heads back to class when she's confronted by a janitor with a horribly burned face. He seems very insistent to talk with her, and she tries unsuccessfully to get away. As she reacts semi-hysterically to his entreaties, it's just too bad that no one else seems to see the janitor. Chloe is bundled off to the hospital, diagnosed with schizophrenia, and then transferred to a group home for teens with mental health issues, Lyle House. Even if she doesn't, we know that something fishy is going on.

The Summoning is the first book in the Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong, and in it Chloe discovers that she has the dark (est) power of necromancy -- the ability to raise and speak with the dead. She learns this -- reluctantly -- from one of the other residents of Lyle House, an oversized teen with an acne problem named Derek. Chloe is more likely to listen to Derek's brother, Simon, who is cuter and not quite as threatening, but she really doesn't want to believe either of them. Chloe isn't able to deny her powers for long, because the ghosts are telling her some things about Lyle House that make her think that the medical and counseling staff don't have her best interests at heart. Along with Derek, Simon and another resident Rae, the teens plan their escape. Their success may depend on knowing who to trust ...

Not my cup of tea, or perhaps just not very interesting audio-wise. I found way too much time devoted to Chloe's discovery and acceptance of her power. She and Derek seemed to talk about it endlessly -- we were privy to every single conversation where he tried to convince her. And every conversation was simply a variation on the same thing. It grew tiresome. It was only about the last disc where the teens decide to make their move that it became somewhat suspenseful and engaging. At the end, I admit to a feeling of being left hanging, rather than glad it was over. (That came later.)

The audiobook is narrated by Cassandra Morris. Years ago (well, three-and-a-half) I was a casual listener to her reading of Elsewhere, which I utterly loved. Here, I was not so enamored. Are my ears more finely tuned? Like Jenna Lamia, Morris has a very youthful sounding voice which is extremely effective for children's and teen audio. In The Summoning, though, I heard childishness and petulance; she seems as uninterested in Chloe as I am. She sketches out a few different characters, but I had tremendous difficulty following dialog. It is easy to lose track of who was speaking.

Morris also reads with a fairly flat affect, which I remember her using to tremendous effect in Elsewhere. But, again, I didn't like it here. The near monotone and unvaried pacing simply added to my feeling of boredom.

It seems that Armstrong has a loyal following of readers -- a quick review of our copies in her adult series Otherworld shows healthy checkouts and a good-sized waiting list for the second in the Darkest Powers trilogy. Not a favorite of mine, but isn't it nice that there's something for everyone?

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