I have never really read a YA novel before. Let me amend that: I read some YA series like the Babysitters Club and Goosebumps etc but once I got my little hands on a Nora Roberts novel at the age of twelve I never looked back. You cannot un-see certain things. I have even read a few books in Ms. Armstrong's series and found them good but lacking something that would really connect me to the series. But then I have to remember that the main audience for these books is between the ages of 12-16. There is a fine line that needs to be drawn between someone in this age group and someone as old as I am. I am twenty five and clearly no longer a part of that age group (and thank anyone who will listen that I am no longer that age.) Having said that, this book was not as bad as I thought it was going to be but it could have been better. The Calling is the Second book in the “Darkness Rising” series and for the most part is a good solid book.
What I did like: I like the set up for the story: kids getting lost in the woods fighting their way to get back home, and having to face the elements, etc. This sounds exciting and certainly interesting enough to keep me busy for a few hours. The characters had their own unique personalities that were distinct enough where I could differentiate one from the next. But the most exciting for me was the author’s dexterity in mixing mythology and science without being preachy and long winded or vague to the point of seeming pointless. The characters read like actual teenagers who are struggling with adolescence and understanding that they are not quite normal teenagers at all. What I enjoy most about these sorts of stories is that it allows for the author and reader to confront relevant social issues under the guise of shape-shifters etc. Here the teenagers deal with family issues, isolation, drugs and issues with sexuality without a moment’s hesitation because they have the buffer of fantasy to help deal with the stress that all of these issues can cause. One of the most successful aspects of the story and the issue that unites this crew is their otherness. It is a standard part of growing up but is high-lighted effectively in this story. Maya is an intelligent, brave young woman who clearly loves animals and is not too much of trouble maker but she has issues that can sometimes get the best of her. All of the characters do, Sam with her snarky comments and vague (rightfully paranoid) outlook at everything, Corey with his goofiness and Daniel with his unwavering chivalry and support of Maya. They are relatable flaws and cannot be dismissed but not be criticized as being predictable either.
Another minor thing that I did enjoy was the fact that you do not really need to have read the first book in order to understand the second. The accessibility to this story and all of her stories is refreshing it allows people to want to finish the book without having to buy the whole series to enjoy it.
I always find that it is much easier to write about the things that I do not like. I have no idea why but I do. The pacing is entirely too slow, dialogue is on the shallow side, and almost all of the action is so few and far between that it cannot be considered action packed. Most of the book is spent following the kids through the woods and Maya’s internal ramblings about the kinds of things that teenagers who are stuck in the woods would think of. This was probably the most annoying of all simply because she seems to go on long tangents about absolutely nothing. I find that books that are only told from one person’s internal thoughts to be unreliable and quietly frankly boring. I liked Maya overall, but found her martyr complex to be obnoxious and slightly overbearing. It got to the point where she seemed to be self-absorbed at times. I would have preferred it if Ms. Armstrong had written the book in third person or jumped from one character to another just to shake it up a bit. As is, it is hard to get through without stopping to do something else, anything else.
I love that she is writing books for teenagers but for this adult she really needs to pump up the volume with these stories. Please consider using some of that internal dialogue in the external dialogue and keep the exposition to action ratio about even with one another. Being in a characters brain all the time can get tedious at times. It can get downright maddening at other times. I would recommend this book for anyone who loves Kelley Armstrong’s YA series books. If you don’t it is still a solid read but not something to really sit down and get comfortable with if you are not between twelve and sixteen.
Maya Delaney's paw-print birthmark is the mark of what she truly is--a skin-walker. She can run faster, climb higher, and see better than nearly everyone else. Experiencing intense connections with the animals that roam the woods outside her home, Maya knows it's only a matter of time before she's able to Shift and become one of them. And she believes there may be others in her small town with surprising talents.ÿ
Now, Maya and her friends have been forced to flee from their homes during a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set. Then they're kidnapped, and after a chilling helicopter crash, they find themselves in the Vancouver Island wilderness with nothing but their extraordinary abilities to help them get back home.