Title: The Gathering (Darkness Rising, Book 1)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Level: Young Adult
Location: YA Armstrong, K.
The Gathering is the first in Armstrong's latest YA trilogy, Darkness Rising. For fans of her first YA trilogy, Darkest Powers, you will find similar themes of seemingly "normal" teens who find they have special powers and how those characters band together to figure out what's happening in their world- not to mention the possibility of medical experimentation.
While I associate Darkest Powers with more paranormal elements and the macabre (after all the main character sees ghosts and the group of characters meet while living in a home for teens with diagnosed mental disorders), The Gathering focuses in on one teen girl's town on Vancouver Island, secluded and controlled by a medical research corporation. Intensive medical check-ups by doctors ranked the best in their field is considered an annoyance to the teens, but a perk to the adults who have relocated their families to this secluded place. Free health care anyone? Folklore from native Canadian tribes and daily interaction with wildlife, in particular cougars, makes Maya's story an interesting read.
Maya has an uncanny ability to work with animals; she helps heal and rehabilitate injured wildlife in a make-shift animal hospital and has run-ins with the cougars who frequent the forests around her home. She feels "different" and has a birthmark resembling a paw print on her hip. When mysterious deaths occur and questions of Maya's birth parents arise, she turns to her closest friends for support. The introduction of Rafe, the newest resident in town, and not exactly a welcomed addition, adds to the mystery and shakes up Maya's daily life. Is this tiny town more than what it seems?
Bottom Line: I can't say that the similarities to all of the recent YA books with teens morphing into other creatures made me want to read this book. I know what you're thinking...vampires, werewolves, what's next? What made me read it is Armstrong's strong writing; the characters are unique, the setting is unspoiled and fresh, and her honest perspective of teens always makes a good YA read. I have to say I'm an Armstrong fan for both her adult and YA books. An interesting note: see if you can find the subtle jabs explaining differences between Canada and America. I had to smile a couple of times and nod my head in agreement.