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The Gathering Paperback – April 10, 2012
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“Comfortably mixing science, myth, and mystery, Armstrong creates a vivid world highlighted by appealing characters. Fans and newcomers alike will be eager for more after Armstrong’s story drives to its pulse-pounding climax. ” (Publishers Weekly)
“Armstrong begins her new series with a swift-paced start, creating memorable characters and interesting premises.” (Booklist)
About the Author
When librarians finally granted Kelley Armstrong an adult card, she made straight for the epic fantasy and horror shelves. She spent the rest of her childhood and teen years happily roaming fantastical and terrible worlds, and vowed that someday she'd write a story combining swords, sorcery, and the ravenous undead. That story began with the New York Times bestselling Sea of Shadows and continues with Empire of Night.
Armstrong's first works for teens were the New York Times bestselling Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising trilogies. She lives in rural Ontario with her husband, three children, and far too many pets.
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So she does take awhile to rev things up. I thought The Gathering was going to be different. It starts with an action packed opening scene where you are holding your breath to see how that turns out. But things promptly settle down with a short jump forward in time. From then on anything dealing with Maya and any special traits she has are mostly hinted at. It remains this way almost completely to the end of the book.
Maya has a snarky, without being mean, personality. Dialogue like below had me chuckling and totally loving her.
“something’s wrong with her.” “Um, yeah. She climbed a tree to escape a cat. She’s suffering from a serious case of stupid.” Page 14
“Have you met the tattoo artist? Is he hot?” “He’s a she,” Mom said. “Is she hot? Cause I’m still young, you know. My sexual identity isn’t fully formed.” Page 37
“Or,” I said, turning to Rafe, “if you want to skip the whole awkward meet-the-family social event, you could just submit your life story, including your views on politics, religion, and every social issue imaginable, along with anything else you think they might need to conduct a thorough background check.” Mom sighed. “I really don’t know why we even bother trying to be subtle around you.” Page 202
What I really enjoyed was the portrayal of the awesome relationship she has with her adoptive parents. The love and interaction there is so endearing. Then you have her best friend Daniel who seems like the perfect dream boat who does so much for Maya, that you can’t help but adore him. I could sense there is tension there and once Rafe comes into the picture I saw the setup for a possible love triangle. I am disappointed if that is indeed the case since there was already a love triangle in her first young adult trilogy Darkest Powers. I guess I will have to wait and see.
My biggest pet peeve is that I am a big believer that even if a book is part of a trilogy or a series that it should still be able to stand on its own two feet. I like there to be a major goal or obstacle that must be overcome and for something considerable to be achieved. With The Gathering it was very much just the setup for the next two books. I’ve already started book two so obviously I still enjoyed The Gathering.
When my daughter picked up The Gathering immediately afterward, I didn't jump into the simultaneous reading right away (I was reading something else). Then she came to me and said "This book is more grown up mom. There's making out, and the girl had her drink drugged." Needless to say, I grabbed my own copy immediately so I could see what was up.
Again, Armstrong takes teen issues head on, portraying realistic social interactions, both good and bad, responsible and irresponsible. The main character has a good head on her shoulders, and departing from stereotypical YA formula, she has a good relationship with her parents. Who are both alive. And pretty awesome. She is open in talking (even joking) with them about dating and sex, and it's clear she's educated comprehensively about sex.
The teens in this book do normal teen things -- make out, sometimes without all clothes on. There are illusions to making out and having sex in back seats of cars. Some of them drink beer, some of them don't. They all make wise and unwise choices, can be kind and unkind to each other, can be both responsible and irresponsible. My daughter and I had lots of great open conversations about how she'll have similar choices in the future, what our values are, what's safe and not safe. We talked about the actual risk of having a drink drugged, why that would happen, and how to potentially prevent it.
So much YA lit avoids these complications, instead glossing over actual teen sexual and drinking behavior. Armstrong portrays it in the book as the realistic situation it is. So refreshing.
Characters are well-developed with flaws and strengths. Relationships are also well-developed and stay in line with character growth. It's definitely a first book - many mysteries are left open-ended, leaving you wanting more. Both my daughter and I enjoyed the book immensely. Would I recommend it for any 11yo? Depends on the kid, and you know your kid better than anyone else. You might want to give it a read yourself first, if your kid is 13 or under.
Overall an intriguing story, I thought it was a bit slow at times and wanted to see more progress in the story than at the end. Has a bit of a cliffhanger type ending but you do feel like you get a complete story. I liked all the characters in the story didn't have much of a romance more of just a young adult paranromal/fantasy story. Will check out the next book.
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