Guest Reviewer: Sarah Rees Brennan


Sarah Rees Brennan is the author of the popular novel, The Demon’s Lexicon, which also happens to be our Book of the Month right now. Sarah kindly agreed to review one of her fave YA books for your reading please. She chose The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong…

One of my Favourite Teen Books, and Thoughts About Sequels

So, I really loved The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong, ( a tale of Chloe, a girl who immediately assumes that she has mental problems and not super powers, and the people she meets at the institution: fire starters, telekinetics and one incredibly sullen werewolf.

Reading the second book in a series you love is always a little scary. You really don’t want it to let you down, and the second book in a trilogy is even scarier: you always have a sneaking suspicion that the writer might be saving the best stuff up for book three.

However, I have a rule for all good trilogies. Book 1: set up. Book 2: make out. Book 3: defeat evil!

Obviously this is not all that goes on in trilogies, but I really mean it. Book one introduces you to the world, and the characters, to the way the writer’s going to be handling the story and the way s/he runs with and wraps up a book. And then book two takes you further into the world, and since the overarching plot can’t be resolved, it gives you time to show us more of the characters, and how the storyline is developing and affecting them: how the characters change and grow, and how their relationships become more intense and complicated. (Which often leads to making out…)

The Awakening delivers exactly what I want in a second book, and did a lot of things I would find cool in any book.

Something I really love is the deconstruction of tropes: when the things we think we know will happen don’t happen, when it all goes differently. My favourite movie this summer was (unexpectedly, as I’ve never seen the TV show) Star Trek, and one of my very favourite things about it was how they handled the romance. You know how it goes. Arrogant Good-Looking Guy meets and tries to woo Discerning Lady. She turns him down, and then he proves to her that she can take him seriously, and she learns to respect his mad skillz, and after that… she gets with someone else, because she really meant it when she said he wasn’t her type.

You see what they did there.

In The Awakening, there’s a small blond girl who’s easily scared, and a big rough tough dark guy who’s easily angered, and occasionally the guy yells and the girl shrinks back, and… it’s not at all good times. Chloe thinks to herself that she has to stop succumbing to damselitis and takes action, and Derek realises what he’s doing and tries to take a step back and be more reasonable. And instead of being romantic traits about them, these things are seen as stuff they have to work on, and evidence that they’re both young and finding out who they really are.

CHLOE: Omigod now it’s in the paper that I was being INTIMIDATED by a HUGE DUDE yelling at me.
CHLOE: … Um.
CHLOE: But kind of, you were. Because you are a HUGE DUDE. And you were YELLING.
CHLOE: That’s okay.

‘But Sarah’ you might say at this juncture. ‘I believe you were talking about making out?’

Now, The Awakening has a love triangle in it. Love triangles can be tricky, as you can end up going ‘Lady, make up your mind, nobody’s getting any younger and this is not fair to these poor boys.’ The Awakening deals with it in a way I really enjoy – by having Chloe, Derek and Simon – Derek’s adopted brother, who is gorgeous and biracial (nice to see! Plus look, families, yay!) all just be young, and fairly unaware of what’s going on, especially considering the terrifying stuff happening around them. Derek is kind of hideous, which is a refreshing change for a sulky young hero, and thus has never had any luck with the ladies. Chloe is a late bloomer and not used to picking up any cues.

CHLOE: Simon’s so awesome. Any girl would be lucky to go out with him.
SIMON: *holds Chloe’s hand*
CHLOE: Shame he thinks of me as a sister, but there you go.
SIMON: As a SIXTEEN YEAR OLD DUDE, I would just like to say I would never dream of holding hands with MY SISTER.

CHLOE: Oh Derek, here we are hiding in the bathroom after facing down crazy werewolves! We are wet and distraught and clingy and you have no shirt on! I have this funny feeling…
DEREK: … Um…. me too maybe… um…
CHLOE: Probably indigestion.

It is pretty clear that I want Derek and Chloe to end up together. And evil to be defeated, naturally. I like the characters and the world a lot: I’m looking forward to the third book not only so I can find out what happens next, but just because I really enjoy being with these fictional people and seeing how things play out for them. I recommend both books a LOT.

I’ll also take this time to thank my pal Aprilynne Pike (Wings) who sent me a copy of The Awakening signed by Kelley for me… in tribute to Derek’s rockin’ bod…

Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to write this!

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