Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

The Gathering
by Kelley Armstrong

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance

Review on behalf of Dark Fairy Tales

Maya lives in a small medical-research town on Vancouver Island. How small? You can’t find it on the map. It has less than two-hundred people, and her school has only sixty-eight students–for every grade from kindergarten to twelve.

Now, strange things are happening in this claustrophobic town, and Maya’s determined to get to the bottom of them. First, the captain of the swim team drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. A year later, mountain lions start appearing around Maya’s home, and they won’t go away. Her best friend, Daniel, starts experiencing “bad vibes” about certain people and things. It doesn’t help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret…and he’s interested in one special part of Maya’s anatomy: Her paw-print birthmark.

Maya is from a very private and privileged town (or hamlet as she prefers to think about it due to the size) called Salmon Creek. She is liked by all, best buds with the most popular boy at school and, if she wanted, could easily be the track team captain. Yet, she is very grounded for her age, has good morals, is secretly suffering/dealing with the loss of a very dear friend, and cares deeply for her family, nature and surrounding wildlife. Her sixteenth birthday is soon approaching and all Maya asks for is a tattooed outlining of her odd birthmark to her parents dismay. But not all is as it seems since her town, home of the St. Cloud Corporation (aka top secret "medical" research facility for corporate bigwigs), is having some new "reporter" sniffing around trying to dig up personal information on the students. Things also get a little out of control when Maya begins to fall for the high school trouble-maker Rafe (Rafael), but as some startling truths become known and even more dark secrets still remain hidden - can Maya except the change that is to come?

I got absorbed into this story from chapter one. Armstrong's writing style flows wonderfully and is easy to follow. Plus, the characters are very realistic and all likable. I highly enjoy Maya as the protagonist, since she is quite witty and very open in regards to her feelings and thoughts. She did, sometimes, come off as older than her sixteen years, but she is great as a female lead. Her Navajo background was very interesting as well. Rafe and Daniel grew on my throughout The Gathering and the other side characters were all very intriguing in their own ways (including the wildlife). Maya shares lots of personal (ex. alcoholism) and touching (ex. mentally disabled sister) moments with the two lead males and it just goes to show that even though she leads this "perfect" life in this "perfect" town, not everything is glitter and gold -- in more ways than one!

The plot was well planned out and the ending had me wishing for more (even though it did finish quite abruptly). But now, I know this is the beginning of a series and I cannot wait for Book #2. So many questions, so many possibilities! The setting was great and I had a "small town" bond between Maya and myself since "almost all of us[students] plan to go off to college or university, and not many intend to return, but we're happy enough living here until then" (pg 35) hit home for me! Yet, with Salmon Creek offering "the best of everything" (pg 17), it really makes you think - "If something seems too good to be true, it's probably because it is . . . "

Likes: Maya's humor!

{while on the tattoo trip} Maya: "I've decided to skip the paw print. I'm thinking of a tramp stamp with flames that say 'Hot in Here.' No, wait. Arrows. For directionally challenged guys." to her father.

Dislikes: I was shocked her parents seriously allowed her to get a tattoo for her sixteenth birthday, WHAT!?!

Words of Wisdom: Maya's Mom - "Yes, you set high standards for people. Too high sometimes. But you set higher ones for yourself and that's what worries me more, Maya. I want you to have big dreams, big goals. I want you to strive to achieve them. But I don't want to see you beating yourself up every time you make a mistake." (pg. 306)


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