Thursday, May 16, 2013

Review: Wild Awake

WILD AWAKE
Hilary T. Smith
Contemporary Young Adult
400 pages
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.


MY THOUGHTS
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.

Rating: 3/5
 

Find Hilary:


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. 

44 comments:

  1. Hmmmm... I've heard things on both ends of the spectrum for this one. It's definitely one I'll be checking out, but I'm glad I know more about the structure of the book now, so I don't expect something that isn't there. Great review, as always. =)

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    1. It wasn't the book for me, I like my books to have a real direction, and this just meandered more than I could deal with:)

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  2. What an interesting book and review. I know what you mean about being the only person in the room who doesn't get a piece of artwork. This sounds like it's something that is so unusual that it could relaly work or it could not. Not sure what I'd think of it.

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    1. Yes! I felt like I just wasn't getting this book, and then I felt all guilty for not getting it:) Win.

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  3. And now I wonder what happens, I am too curious

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    1. Maybe this will be the book for you!

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  4. I love the painter reference! It's how many people view art and I do feel like that sometimes. Connecting is a hard task and it's important for a writer to know how to hook the readers into one's world. I'm a little curious to be inside someone's head who does pot. I mean.. I don't think I've been inside one's head during that 'experience'. I do think Kiri is a different name and kudos for the author for not naming her something usual since it's rememberable and doesn't blur with the rest of the characters we've met in other books. I'm not sure anymore about this book though. I wanted to read it when I first stumbled upon it, but now when you say it just IS, that's not enough to allure me in I think. I wan't my stories intense, mysterious, romantic, dark and sometimes bright, but not.. just being. Hmhh.. I'll have to think about this one. LOVED your review though, hon!

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    1. Thanks Siiri! The casualness with which she smoked pot bothered me a bit, and then she randomly popped a bunch of pills and things just got all fuzzy. I needed something more to happen I think:)

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  5. Fantastic review!! Really enjoyed reading your thoughts because I can totally relate to what you're speaking of feeling like the only person who doesn't understand a piece of artwork. I am maybe a bit bummer after reading your review though because though I had previously been a bit curious about this one, I can say that I won't like this one now. I do like unique, but now I'm thinking this would likely be too off the beaten path for me.

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    1. Yay! Thank you Aylee, I was feeling very much like I was on the outside looking in on with this book, it just wasn't my thing:)

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  6. I'm not sure this crazy ride is for me! I don't so much mind the manic-ness of her actions but it makes it hard when you're not connecting well with the character to support those actions (especially those actions that endanger her). Interesting...but not so much for me.

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    1. It really wasn't for me either Mary. It was well written and I think it will appeal to a lot of people, I just couldn't connect to Kiri at all.

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  7. From your description of Kiri, I honestly don't think I would enjoy this book. Eileen also reviewed this title and she hated Kiri with a passion. She even shared some quotes from the book and it's pretty much when I decided when this book simply wasn't for me.
    It's really too bad that you didn't really connect with the MC. Still, I'm happy that you enjoyed some elements in the book, Jenny!
    Lovely review as always!

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    1. I just couldn't ever really get a bead on Kiri, she was too all over the place for me. And without a clear direction for the plot, I just felt lost.

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  8. Bummer! I am sad that while the writing was fantastic the story line..not so much. It sounds like this had a lot of potential but ended up being somewhat of a hot mess.

    Your reviews are always amazing and so well thought out! Wonderful job!!

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  9. Hm, I am definitely very curious about this one. I always thought I was ok with a plot that isn't really a plot but having finished Charm & Strange yesterday is making me second guess that. Throughout your entire review I was imagining this girl flying through the air like a bird from place to place. Definitely led to some interesting visuals! Great review!

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    1. I just needed it to have more direction. Instead we just sort of wandered about with her, smoked pot, played in band and fell quickly in love with someone named Skunk. And then it was just sort of over without a resolution because there really wasn't anything to resolve in the first place.

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  10. I can handle a lack of plot arc if the characters are engaging and suck you in. I don't know that this fits that bill, especially if you never quite connected to Kiri. Bummer.

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    1. Agreed. If the plot meandered but I was madly in love with Kiri, I would have likely been fine with this book. But every time I tried to reach out and grab her, she seemed to slip right through my fingers.

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  11. Thanks for the honest review, Jenny. I am not sure this book is for me. I've read some mixed reviews and it just seems all over the place. Originally I liked the premise, but after hearing that after nearly 400 pages you still don't have a grasp on Kiri...that would drive me nuts!

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    1. It's a strange wandering kind of story, and I tend to like my stories a bit more straightforward I guess. I fail:)

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  12. Jenny I love, love, love your use of watching a painter paint and feeling like you are the only one who doesn't understand. Kudos for finishing this, I am glad you liked aspects of this, but not connecting makes it hard. Wonderful, and thoughtful review!

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    1. Thanks Kimba! It's honestly how I felt throughout - like I just wasn't grasping the brilliance of it. I felt kind of dumb while reading!

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  13. Thanks for the honest review. I had high hopes for this one. I have it for review, now I'm not really looking forward to it.

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    1. I'll be interested to see what you think Ellen! I think this is going to be a love it or hate it read for most people:)

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  14. Yeah... I'm not sure if I'd love this one or totally not care for it at all. Maybe I'd be middle ground like you. I remember seeing a good review for this but you have me thinking that I may need to look up a few more reviews because I commit to reading it.

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    1. It just wasn't for me Candace. I need either plot or characters to pull me in, and I didn't feel that pull at all with this book. Things just were; nothing concrete actually happened where you could sit back and go "okay, here's what this book was about.":)

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  15. The premise sounds so good but I am so not a fan of books without a cohesive plot that meander all over the place. I have read several and they end up frustrating me to no end. So even though this has a lot of promise, I will sadly be skipping it. Thanks for the heads up!

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    1. I found myself frustrated too Heidi, and bored a lot of the time. Her writing was beautiful though:)

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  16. What a beautiful and thoughtful review! I love that you compare this to a piece of artwork in a gallery, because I’ve seen such a wide range of emotional responses to this book that it really does remind me of one of those crazy reaction pieces, like a giant metal cube, where some people are like “most brilliant thing ever!” and others are like “WTF it’s just a giant a cube!” :D (I’m normally on the WTF it’s a cube side). My blog partner loved this so I’m anxious to read it myself and see where I land. I’m sorry you didn’t connect with the story and with Kiri more. She sounds like a bit of a whirlwind! But it’s great that you admired it enough to warrant three stars. Thanks for this eloquent, honest review Jenny!

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  17. Uh oh. Loose and meandering? Love your review and while some flexibility can be great, going off the rails isn't. Sounds like this one is like a driver that falls asleep at the wheel, drifts into the other lane and wakes up with enough time to jerk back into the correct lane.

    I'm still kinda curious, but I feel like I know what to expect now. Thanks, Jenny!

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  18. Hmmm...sounds like a very interesting read but I might not be able to get through 400 pages if it's really that scattered and there no huge characetr/reader connection...

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  19. The only similar story I ever liked is The Sky Is Everywhere, and that is entirely due to Nelson's magical writing. I honestly don't think I'd be able to stand Kiri, and while this novel seems to be very postmodern in some ways and I certainly appreciate that, I know it's not for me. It's one of those things I'd amire for a bit, and then I'd just want to go read something else.
    (I'm experiencing the same thing right now with The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand)
    Fantastic review, Jenny!

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  20. This really has me curious. I sometimes really enjoy the unusual way writers go about things... and sometimes the stranger the better. However, I do love a good story and if it doesn't at least give me some conclusion, solution... I turn into Sheldon of the BBT and want to add my own!

    Btw, "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." I love that sentence even though it doesn't bode well for the book. Can I has your writing talent? :D

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  21. Thanks for your review Jenny. I;m not sure if I;m going to like the book if it is going everywhere. Not that I what stability, just that it may feel confusing. Thanks for sharing.

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  22. I don't know how you stuck with this book, Jenny. It would have driven me nuts. Not connecting with the MC and a meandering plot for 400 pages?! That's a bit too much to handle. I don't think I'll be pursuing this book.

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  23. I know what you mean about this book being all over the place, Jenny. At times, even I found it difficult to discern what was happened without a steady plot line, but I still wound up loving it. I hope this author's future books work out better for you, dear! Great review, as always, Jenny! :D

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  24. I'm not so sure I'd be able to read this book, honestly. I want to really get to know my characters, and when I don't, I get so frustrated. Plus, when a book is all over the place, I find myself losing interest. Oops haha but seriously, I love that you still manage to find the good in it! Great review, Jenny!

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  25. I just read a review praising this book a few days ago and I could tell this was not a book for me. When I read in my email that this was your review I was betting you wouldn't like this, lol! Kiri sounds like someone I'd like to shake some sense into. She sounds highly frustrating as does this read. You know me, I like my stories wih a purpose and nicely wrapped up by the end. This does neither apparently. I think I'll pass. Thanks for the informative and entertaining review. I had a giggle or two picturing what was going through your mind while reading this. :)

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  26. I'm definitely curious about this one (mostly because it sounds like such an unconventional read), but I don't think I have the patience for it, in all honesty. It does seem to be stirring up some mixed thoughts already, though, which is interesting to see... Great review, Jenny!

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  27. I didn't really knew what it was about and even though the mc remained to be a mystery, I'm very curious to read her story. I likes a strong drama or atleast some angst in my romances, but I think this will be a difference change of pace and I might end up liking it. Great review, Jenny :)

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  28. The plot sounds a bit strange, as does the writing style. This might be more of a check-out-from-the-library kind of a book.

    Nice honest review :)

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  29. Ugh- this books sounded SO good!! I had such high hopes. It's to bad this one was all over the place.

    Sara @ Just Another Story

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