Kelly Armstrong is one of my favorite authors. I especially love her strong women characters, and her unerring ear for realistic dialogue. She’s also great at romance. The only catch – for some of you anyway – would be that most of her books stray into the paranormal zone.
Sixteen-year-old Maya Delaney was adopted shortly after birth, and believes she is Navajo but not sure. She and her architect mom and park ranger dad live in a secluded area of wilderness on Vancouver Island called Salmon Creek. Salmon Creek is a company town, erected by a pharmaceuticals firm doing secret research. Almost everyone in the town of 200 works for the company, St. Cloud, with Maya’s dad being one of the few exceptions.
Maya’s best friend, Daniel Bianchi, lives alone with his dad who is a violent alcoholic. So Daniel spends a lot of time at Maya’s place. Formerly, Daniel dated Maya’s good friend Serena, but Serena died in a freak swimming accident, which was especially puzzling because Serena was captain of the school’s swimming team.
So first of all, there are a couple of mysteries going on here. What is St. Cloud up to, and how did Serena actually die? But there’s more…
Daniel helps Maya take care of stray wild animals brought to her dad, but everyone knows that the animals heal fastest under Maya’s care. There is something about her… And for that matter, there’s something about Daniel….
Meanwhile, Maya is being pursued by Rafeal “Rafe” Martinez, who, like Maya, looks Native. He and his older sister Annie live alone in one of the few houses in the area not owned by St. Cloud. At first Maya resists Rafe, considering him to be a “player,” but before long, she falls under his spell. She thinks that, unlike the other girls he has chased, he really likes her, until a big reveal shows that nothing and nobody in Salmon Creek is who they seem to be.
Discussion: Daniel and Maya have a wonderful dynamic between them. It’s like a fierce family love and loyalty, plus care exercised by each to make sure they don’t let stray hormones interfere inappropriately. I also love the relationship between Maya and her parents. The three of them are respectful of each other, but also teasing and loving and trusting. It makes you feel warm just “being around” them. This is one of my favorite passages, when Maya’s dad explains why he prefers Daniel to Rafe:
‘I just… I understand you might want to start dating more seriously, and that means dating someone from town. But if you’re going to do that…’ This time he took a long drink of coffee, and the mug was still at his lips when he said, ‘I like Daniel. He takes care of you.’
I blinked. ‘Oh my God. Did you really just say that? He takes care of me?’
Dad flushed. ‘I didn’t mean it like —’
‘Takes care of me? Did I go to sleep and wake up in the nineteenth century?’ I looked down at my jeans and T-shirt. ‘Ack! I can’t go to school like this. Where’s my corset? My bonnet?’
Dad sighed as Mom walked in with her empty teacup.
‘What did I miss?’ she said.
‘Dad’s trying to marry me off to Daniel.’ I looked at him. ‘You know, if you offer him a new truck for a dowry, he might go for it.’
‘Apparently, I said the wrong thing,’ Dad told Mom.”
Evaluation: If you totally hate paranormal of the shape-shifter variety, you probably won’t like Kelley Armstrong. But if you only like it when it’s good, she’s good! Many reviewers feel this isn’t her best, but I zoomed right through it; I just like the way she writes!
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2011