Kelley Armstrong has wowed me once again with her novel The Gathering. Only a talented author such as herself can weave so much substance into a YA paranormal novel. The main plot is a supernatural thriller story rooted in Native American (& Canadian) folklore. The action is steady, and the tone is dark – with the death of a teen in the first chapter. The novel captured my attention from the beginning and never faltered. The characterization was strong for such an ensemble cast, with everyone having a little more depth than you often see in minor characters. Maya is a narrator that young girls will relate to, and guys will respect. I love that Armstrong is contributing another strong female character to the literary world, someone I think parents will approve of as a role model.
Prejudice is a prevailing theme of the novel. People are discriminated against or stereotyped for being native, newcomers, or tourists. Even the good characters fall into these misconceptions, but Armstrong’s stance against discrimination is clear. Alcoholism and poor parenting are also touched on in a thought provoking manner, but I’m disappointed in the characters for not dealing with this situation better. I was glad that despite other examples of unhealthy families in the novel Maya had well rounded, supportive parents that felt real. I read a blog post recently about how few GOOD parents get much attention in YA and I think hers are well written.
The challenges of male/female friendship, survivor’s guilt, date rape drugs ,and a number of other issues add a gritty reality to the paranormal tale.
I enjoyed that the novel was very clearly Canadian. As a nominee for the Canadian Library Association book award, I think having a Canadian setting is a point in it’s favour.
For more by Kelley Armstrong see my review of The Summoning