Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

I think I've stated before that if I have a good idea, there's an equally good chance it actually originated with my best friend, Audrey. She's not only a brilliant photographer and graphic designer, she's been helping me with beta reading (and fear not, has no problem kicking me in the shins when I balk at killing my darlings) and tips on developing an audience for my own work. One of her tips was to check out Kelley Armstrong. She writes about badass women, I write about badass women...seems like easy math. Ergo, I hit up my local library for her latest release.

Summary (From Book Jacket): Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn’t know much about her background – the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip – but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.

Until now.

Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town – from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend’s hidden talent for “feeling” out people and situations to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel… different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya’s biological parents and it’s easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.

My Thoughts: Um, I loved this book so much that it's kind of embarrassing. Maya is determined, accessible, and very much a capital-letter Hero in the making even as she still has flaws and a ways to go before she figures out her place in the world. Rafe is a fantastic twist on the "bad boy with a heart of gold" trope. (He's not really a brooder, but he's not above using that image to get what he wants, which imo puts him in a much more genuine and original place of moral ambiguity than simply being a Rebel Without a Clue.) Maya is also Native, probably Navajo, though the full story surrounding her identity is not answered in his book. I thought that Armstrong did a fantastic job of flipping on its head the overwhelming whiteness of YA fandom, and doing it effortlessly. The skinwalker myth plays a role in this plot with all of the Native American characters, but it's not the ~mystical Indian~ stereotype (which Maya herself snarks about), and in fact has a pretty damned cool sci-fi twist that I can't wait to see filled out further.

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