Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: Awaken

AWAKEN
Katie Kacvinsky
Young Adult/Dystopian
352 Pages
Houghton Mifflin
Available May 23rd
Received for review as part of the Cornucopia of Dystopia Blog Tour

THE STORY
Maddie lives in a world of online schooling and chat rooms, only leaving her house to play soccer before coming home again. Everything is computer-based now, and people have no need for personal contact, especially Maddie who is under the very careful watch of her father for betraying his trust two years before.

Though Maddie doesn't always agree with her father and his involvement in the creation of Digital School, a program that encourages online learning and greatly discourages face to face interactions, she loves her family and wishes to regain what she's lost. Keeping Maddie strictly online doesn't keep her from meeting Justin however, and he encourages her to meet with him at a local study group.

Justin introduces Maddie to a world long forgotten, one where people seek out other people for support and companionship, and one where they are fighting against the digital monster taking over everything they value. She quickly realizes they view her as a vital part of their fight, but aiding them in their cause will change everything Maddie knows and fully disconnect her from her previous way of life.

MY THOUGHTS
Awaken is a story fully befitting its title, forcing us to open our eyes and see just how easily this future could come to pass and how simple it would be to limit social interaction to strictly digital communications. Maddie's world is fascinating in its realism, its focus on electronic profiles and online chat rooms as substitutes for human to human contact incredibly apropos for this day and age, and we can't help but wonder how many years we have left before Awaken is no longer representative of our future but of our present. Who would we be if people only knew the characteristics and personality traits we wanted them to know, and only saw us through uploaded virtual representations and screen names? We could be anything and anyone we wanted to be at the touch of a finger, but as this story so beautifully points out, what a lonely existence that would be. No one would know the real person behind all the pixelated representations–the quirks and oddities that make us individuals would all be wiped out in a wave of digital illusion and perfection, and we then would cease to be people, instead only existing through a compilation of information we've deemed relevant.

Maddie is a thoroughly enjoyable heroine, a girl who is undoubtedly embedded in the comforts of the digital world but who is open minded enough to consider its detriments as well was its credits with regard to its effects on society as a whole. She is willful and confident, standing her ground when Justin and company ask her to betray her family in offering them her assistance to their cause despite her agreement with their views. When it comes to her attraction to Justin, Maddie exhibits an admirable persistence, refusing to allow him to keep his distance through pretty excuses and noble sentiments about it being what's best for her. She is smart, determined, loyal, and a girl we can only hope we meet again in a future installment.

While Maddie is a girl who earns our instant affection, Justin is a young man whose efforts to start a revolution we absolutely respect, but whose strict adherence to the rules he's set for himself frustrates us to no end. For an individual who dedicates his entire being and existence to affecting change, he is remarkably stubborn in welcoming it into his own life. He preaches the merits of human companionship and personal interaction but yet tries repeatedly to avoid those very things with Maddie. When eventually Maddie breaks through the massive shield he's erected around himself, he gloriously submits to the emotional and physical sensations for which he fights so resolutely, but then quickly thrusts his barriers back into place when he feels the moment has passed and proceeds to repeat this process several times over to our ever-increasing irritation.

Overall, Awaken is an intriguing debut from Ms. Kacvinsky despite Justin's somewhat hypocritical nature, one that has a premise that haunts us due to its undeniable applicability to our own lives, and one that has a main character about whom its a pleasure to read. The ending is left wide open, but not frustratingly incomplete, and we read the last page hoping this will not be our last foray into this world, but is merely the beginning of our experience.

Rating: 3.5 /5

29 comments:

  1. Another great review Jenny. This book is in my maybe list but your review is making me want to give it a try :)

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  2. Another book that is sitting on my shelf and waits to be read. I started with the first pages but then stopped. But you seem to like it and I might give it another try! I like the premise though...

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  3. Your beautiful review seems more complimentary than the rating you gave the book and I am wondering why? Have looked at this one and wondered if I should get it and I loved the sound of the premise and the charactes, just hesitant to gov for it.

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  4. I am so curious about Awaken but there have been so many mixed reviews. The premise is very relevant, considering how dependent we are on computers.

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  5. Great review! I am not sure I will pick this one up but I think I know someone to recommend it too. I am glad your reviews are so complete helps me narrow the list of recommendations that are a little out of my comfort zone :)

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  6. Awesome review! I've been wanting to read this one for awhile now :D

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  7. I've read a bunch of mixed reviews for this one as well. I may give this one a try still, but probably won't get around to it until the summer, because I'm on dystopian overload. Great review though. BTW, your reviews are so eloquent. I love them! :)

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  8. Nic - I liked it overall, I just wanted to smack Justin sometimes for his attitude:)

    Danny - I did enjoy it, Justin was a bit preachy though and that's why I gave it a bit of a lower score.

    Jan - I really liked the premise and I enjoyed Maddie, so I rambled on a bit about them. Justin was the problem for me, and I couldn't get past him so that's why the lower score. If he had pushed her away and then changed his mind really gone for a relationship with her, it would have worked better for me. But it was push, pull, push, pull the whole time with him and I got irritated.

    Misha - I thought it was really entertaining, and so easy to see our world going in that direction which kept me wanting to know more:)

    Felicia - Thanks Felicia, I try to make them thorough but I know sometimes I go to far and I'm out in left field talking and the review gets really long. I'm working on that:)

    Book Pages - Thanks! Hope you enjoy:)

    Christina - I'm a bit overloaded on dystopian as well, but I just love the genre so much. It might be good to wait until you're excited for the genre again and then give it a try!

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  9. I have this book from NetGalley and I have heard some mixed reviews, especially with regards to Justin. I will still give it a go but I appreciate your honest review and will definitely keep your thoughts in mind :)

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  10. hehehehehe... you said erected.

    Sorry, I couldn't help being lame this morning. It's just last night in class we discussed hidden stimuli in literature. It was fun.

    YES! Justin was indeed frustrating! I'm not sure if he is solely responsible for me not being able to connect to the story, but he didn't help.

    But you are right, the story is haunting because of technology's ability to isolate us could happen (and probably already has in some ways).

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  11. Sounds frustrating. I don't need anymore frustrating books! LOL
    Sometimes I think these series are best read all at once so you can get the context and not be left hanging.

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  12. Tara - I liked everything but Justin. There were times I liked him and was rooting for him and Maddie, but then he would put on his preachy hat and I wanted to reach in and shake him:)

    Missie - Ha! I did say erected. *blushes* I'm hoping if we get another book in this series, Justin will take things down a notch and do as he encourages others to do:)

    Karen - I agree, there are so many first books that are open ended or have a cliffhanger and I'm going to get an ulcer waiting for all my answers:)

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  13. I'm still on the fence about whether I should read this or not. It's just that I have a bit of dystopian fatigue with so much dystopian coming out this year.

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  14. You seem to be much more patient with this one that I was, Jenny. ;) I liked the premise too, but I felt the book quickly turned from dystopian to purely romance. I was a bit surprised at the ending though.

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  15. I think my biggest question is if it makes sense in the way she breaks though his walls. I can see how that would be a hard part to write and it also seems like a critical piece. Other than that I don't mind an open ending as long as it doesn't frustrate too much. Great review as always!

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  16. Jenny - If you're over dystopian for the moment, you may want to wait on this one:)

    Rummanah - Haha yeah, I liked it overall, I just got very annoyed with Justin, I don't like feeling like I'm getting lectured, and he did a lot of that.

    Melissa - She kind of just refuses to buy his bullsh*t (which I like about her) and eventually he caves, but then the next day he's right back to where he was and she has to start all over again. That's what frustrated me most:)

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  17. Thanks for the lovely review. =) I've heard mixed things about this one, but overall I think it should be enjoyable. I'll definitely be checking it out at some point.

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  18. GORGEOUS review. I'm dying to read this now!

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  19. I have been wanting to read this book but I think I'll wait a while. It does sounds good. Thanks for the review!!

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  20. Ashley - You're welcome:)

    Book Girl - Thanks! Hope you like it:)

    Savy - Parts of it were really good, I just couldn't deal with Justin some of the time!

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  21. For some reasin this dystopia book just doesn't grab me. But I am glad for that, cos I have way too many on my wishlist ;)

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  22. Loved your review, Jenny. I can't wait to share mine! You and I are on the same page on a lot of the key points. I completely agree with you on the possibility of this world, and it creeps me out! I connected really well with these characters for their strong beliefs and fierce determination, and loved the different dynamics of Maddie's parents too. I really could talk about it for hours. It is def one of my fav dystopian books to date, even though it isn't as high on anyone else's list. :D

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  23. Hopping through. I've heard good and bad things about this one. I couldn't figure out why you only gave it a 3.5 but then I read what you said in the comments. It's hard when one character pulls you down.

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  24. Super review Jenny- I think you found some things that I didnt really see. I had a hard time getting into it but for sure worth the read.

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  25. You really must stop this, Jenny. I had no interest in this. I don't like dystopians. I don't want another one sitting in my tbr pile and yet, your review makes this one seem so real so timely. My oldest son doesn't even know how to dial the house phone. He doesn't know the home phone numbers of his friends. But he knows their cell numbers and can text faster than I can type. And has a facebook account. If it weren't for school....

    Heather

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  26. I know so many people like Justin! This story sounds very intriguing.

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  27. Yep, I found Justin super annoying too. Despite that, I did enjoy the story.

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  28. This was one of my favorite books I've read lately! The characters are so easy to relate to. I love the relationship between Justin and Madeline, and the way it grows and changes throughout the book! I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a book about dystopian society with some teenage romance involved. I've already started the second book!

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