Hilary T. Smith
Contemporary Young Adult
Katherine Tegen Books
Available May 28th
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:
1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.
Things that actually happen:
1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.
Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.
Loose and meandering, Wild Awake takes us on a strange and jumbled multi-week journey through young Kiri’s life while her parents are away on vacation, watching through a haze of detachment as she finds herself slowly but brutally knocked off one life path before stumbling her way onto another. Reading this story is a bit like attending the exhibition of a renowned painter, standing in front of one of their pieces, and realizing you are perhaps the only person in the room that doesn’t fully understand or appreciate what’s before you. Ms. Smith is clearly a talented writer, but Kiri’s story is extraordinarily hard to connect to, leaving us feeling fuzzy and disoriented as though we are the ones indulging in the pot Kiri’s so fond of, and we flip the pages in a sort of fog wondering when or if the piece of literary artwork before us is going to start resonating.
Kiri, despite spending nearly four hundred pages with her, is someone who remains a bit of a mystery to us, flitting around frantically like a bird (fitting given her surname) trapped in a cage it never realized existed before, and now that it knows it can do nothing but beat its wings against the bars in an effort to make them disappear. She’s all over the place in this story – obsessing about her music, despairing of the truth of her sister’s death, riding her bike all over town and getting herself in to extraordinarily dangerous situations for a sixteen year-old girl, and bouncing from one thing to the next without staying still long enough for us to get a true glimpse of her. Being with her is a dizzying experience, something only enhanced by her pot smoking and her occasional pill-popping, and we can’t help but find ourselves looking forward to the time when we can get off this crazy ride and put our feet back on solid ground.
Wild Awake is one of those stories that doesn’t follow a typical plot arc; there’s no beginning, middle, or climactic end, it just simply is – a life depicted on the pages that’s sometimes heavy and difficult to wade through and other times light and airy, leaving us unfettered but also a touch uneasy with nothing around us to help us get our bearings. This book will likely appeal to many readers who appreciate more unusual stories that don’t necessarily have a romantic or familial drama to overcome or a specific mystery to be solved, but for many this will be a challenging read full of fairly mundane details about Kiri’s day to day activities and a seeming lack of direction for the story as a whole. There’s undeniably a beauty to this tale, but like any piece of artwork, it’s highly subjective and will certainly inspire more conflicting opinions than most.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review. I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.