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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Hooke

Review of 'The Summoning'

The Summoning (Darkest Powers #1)

By Kelley Armstrong, 2008, HarperCollins

Paranormal, Horror

Rating: 👻👻👻 (3 out of 4 "boos")

“Chloe Saunders sees dead people. Yes, like in the films. The problem is, in real life saying you see ghosts gets you a one-way ticket to the psych ward. And at 15, all Chloe wants to do is fit in at school and maybe get a boy to notice her. But when a particularly violent ghost haunts her, she gets noticed for all the wrong reasons. Her seemingly crazed behaviour earns her a trip to Lyle House, a centre for disturbed teens. At first Chloe is determined to keep her head down. But then her roommate disappears after confessing she has a poltergeist, and some of the other patients also seem to be manifesting paranormal behaviour. Could that be a coincidence? Or is Lyle House not quite what it seems…? Chloe realizes that if she doesn’t uncover the truth, she could be destined for a lifetime in a psychiatric hospital. Or could her fate be even worse…? Can she trust the other kids in the home, and does she dare reveal her dark secret?”

What’s the main character like?

Chloe Saunders tells the story in first person. I like that she compares everything to filmmaking. I like that she’s sassy but not mean. She has a good head on her shoulders. In spite of me being a thirty-something, I still find her relatable because Armstrong did a solid job of showing she’s a girl who thinks and takes risks.

How scary is it?

Scary enough. I read a lot of this book around two in the morning when I was all alone. It didn’t stop my heart in terror like the final scene of Carrie or all of the film 1922 (all the poor cows 🐄 ...!) or the novel Heart-Shaped Box. The prologue is one of the scariest parts of The Summoning, so reading the opening will give you a good sense of how scary it will be for you. Another scary scene takes place in a crawl space. But I don’t do spoilers. Just know if you don’t like crawl spaces, you may need to read with caution...

Who might like this book?

People who liked The Sixth Sense. People who like books with cliffhangers and books that are part of a series. People who like sassy first-person narrators. People who don’t need romance to be the focus of the storyline. People who like slowly unraveling mysteries.

What did I like best?

The slowness. Slow doesn’t have to mean bad. I liked getting to know Chloe. I liked experiencing her coming to terms with seeing ghosts. I liked meeting her new Lyle House pals right along with her. Fast-paced action wouldn’t have allowed for such character development. That being said, there WAS action: Armstrong just didn’t insist on getting in your face with it every single second.

What wasn't my favorite?

I experienced a weird technical thing that has nothing to do with the content of the book, but I'm going to vent about it anyway. I read the book on my e-reader. For some reason, when a paragraph changed, there was a giant space. And I mean giant. Literally, every thirty seconds, I thought there was a time jump because that’s usually what a giant space means. My brain kept getting really upset because then it would take me another five seconds to realize, “Nope, they’re still in the laundry room. It’s the same exact scene.” #SpacingMatters

What was my personal experience reading this book?

As you know, I set a goal to read scary YA books in alphabetical order according to the last name of the author. I came across Kelley Armstrong’s name when searching the Barnes & Noble website for YA horror. Assuming ALL of her books must be YA, I ended up selecting City of the Lost, the first book of her Casey Duncan series. I was enjoying it so much that I was in denial when I realized this book wasn't YA at all. Adult narrator. Drinking at bars. Explicit sexual commentary. Alas, I set it aside to read The Summoning, which is YA, because rules are rules, am I right? (But don’t worry; I resumed reading City of the Lost a few days ago.) Anyway, I think I would have liked The Summoning more if I hadn’t picked up City of the Lost first. Not that I didn’t like it. My mind was just so clouded with Casey Duncan that I didn’t feel entirely ready for Chloe Saunders. But it was still a fun read, and I'd even recommend reading it like I did: during one a.m. bouts of insomnia.

I'd love to hear about the books YOU read when you have insomnia. Or about any experiences you've had with weird e-reader spacing. Share below!

Next up, a book by an author with the last name B...

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