September 29, 2010


by Kelley Armstrong
390 pages, HarperCollins

Review by Melissa Conway

When Chloe Saunders goes screaming down the hall at school and then struggles violently with the teachers who attempt to restrain her, she’s whisked away by ambulance. No one but Chloe saw the horribly burnt ghost that was chasing her; no one else sees any of the spooks that suddenly seem to be all around her. What they do see is a disturbed teen who broke the school “zero-tolerance for violence” policy. Now, unless she spends a couple of weeks in a group home “undergoing evaluation,” it’ll mess up her permanent record. Chloe wants to be a movie director some day, and her dreams of going to UCLA are now in jeopardy.

So she’s shipped off to Lyle House, where she can enjoy a structured day, some chores, a constant stream of psychotropic medication and a little light therapy, all within a secure environment. For a home for troubled teens, Lyle House is rather progressive. Her housemates consist of both boys and girls, living together with plenty of opportunities to mingle away from prying eyes. Each of the occupants has a different diagnosis: Tori is moody, Rae likes fire, Liz throws things around; and Derek is violent – oh, and his foster brother Simon, who has nothing wrong with him, has been allowed to stay to keep Derek company, on the house, so to speak.

Chloe learns quickly that the only way she’s going to get out of Lyle House is to hide her reaction to the ghosts she sees. Each time she freaks out, she’s confirming her diagnosis of delusional schizophrenic. But it doesn’t take her long to notice that something at Lyle House isn’t quite right. First of all, there’s a ghost in the basement trying to tell her something. Then there’s Derek and his creepy ways—for a greasy-haired, acne-cursed, hulking behemoth of a teen, he sure can sneak up on a girl. And then poor Liz gets transferred out, right after she demonstrates to Chloe that she doesn’t have to lay hands on the things that get tossed around whenever she’s upset. Soon, Chloe is convinced the ghosts she sees are real. Simon tells her she’s a necromancer—every girl’s dream, right?—and the rest of her housemates all have supernatural abilities, too. Is it coincidence they all ended up at Lyle House?

Author Kelley Armstrong does a fine job slowly building tension in this young adult thriller. Her characters are well-crafted and I’m in awe of the subtle way she made me believe in the budding but unacknowledged attraction growing between two of the unlikeliest characters (I won’t spoil it by saying who). The only thing that distracted me, and I hate to even mention it because it was a minor thing, was the use of coincidence to advance the plot. Everyone constantly eavesdropped on everyone else at Lyle House, but to be fair, one of the characters does have highly advanced hearing…

Suffice it to say I really enjoyed The Summoning, the first in Armstrong’s Darkest Powers series.

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