Sunday, 8 July 2012

Review: Awaken

Title: Awaken
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Released: 23rd May 2011
Rating: 3.5/4 out of 5

Awaken had been on my computer for quite some time up until this point. I'd started it two or three times but for one reason or another was never able to go beyond the first couple of paragraphs. I'm glad to say I finally sat down and read this properly. It was definitely worth it, although I'm still not sure what rating this truly deserves.

The year is 2060 and technology has taken over. Hardly anyone goes out anymore. Instead, they go to school, work, the beach, anywhere they want, all from the safety of their own homes. Why wouldn't they, when anything outside can be virtually replicated, able to be experienced without stepping a foot outside the front door? Madeline Freeman, however, wants more. And when online studymate Justin Solvi insists on them meeting face to face, she can hardly believe it. She is shocked when she discovers his motive for seeking her out...not to mention confused when he opens her eyes to the lie her life is, and to everything she's missed out on.

This isn't quite like other dystopias I've read. Generally you have a regimental government exercising total control over society, or a set societal hierarchy in which a particular group is considered an outcast, illegal, inferior. At least, that's what I've come across. In Awaken, Katie Kacvinsky provides a different take on dystopia, focusing more on how technology dominates. While there is a controlling government, it is not as high on the extreme scale. Having said that, dystopia also means a society in which a key problem is causing it to be dysfunctional, and there are certainly problems here. The world Kacvinsky has created is frighteningly possible. Today, each day brings with it a newer, faster, (supposedly) better piece of technology. And with these developments, we become lazier and dependent; we demand instant gratification, and that is exactly what this book points out. Here, people have lost the ability to actually live life. It always strikes me as ironic that, despite these societies being set in the future, they are far more backward in some way than we are today. The author has crafted this well, although I would have liked to see some more world-building: there were times when it felt very current.

I liked Maddie well enough. She was a little self-contradictory - she doesn't like her dad controlling her, yet when offered the chance to make a change, is more comfortable with following a determined path. But at the same time, she is strong. Strong enough to know what was wrong with her life at 15 and act on it; strong enough to step out of her comfort zone and meet Justin two years later. I also couldn't help but share in her sadness. Her dad, inventor of the digital school and consequent millionairre, is the very definition of controlling tyrant. While I understood the distrust he had for his daughter (someone's daughter stealing their secret files and giving them to the opposition is bound to do that to a person), what I couldn't understand was how potent, almost toxic, that distrust was two years on. What father, however unforgiving, bugs his daughter and has her followed? What father checks and triple checks every aspect of his daughter's life, all the way down to the number of people in her study group?

The relationship between Justin and Maddie was incredibly well-paced. I thought Maddie was too quick to let Justin get under her skin, but that was balanced by the distance he put between them. I liked that his character was consistent - it's obvious that he does actually care for Maddie, but he warns her it can't happen between them, and lives by his word. When he eventually gives in, the relationship between them is sweet. I loved how he was always taking the time to give Maddie new experiences. Her reactions to these I particularly enjoyed because it gave me a whole new appreciation for life. Everything we take for granted - from the colours around us, to fire, to to the grass beneath our feet - she appreciates and respects. Even a scratched, creaky wooden floor. As ridiculous as it sounds, what we see as flawed, something beneath our notice except to be annoyed about, she saw as a sign of history. I loved seeing things from a new, fresh perspective.

Overall, Awaken was an engaging read. Even though it perhaps wasn't what I was expecting, I still enjoyed it. There were sizable chunks where perhaps not much happened, yet Kacvinsky managed to pull it off and keep me reading nevertheless. I'm definitely looking forward to the second one.          


  1. SO glad you liked this! Was intrigued by the blurb + cover but after so many disappointing dystopians I've been sceptical! Great review, girl!

    1. Aww, really? I hope you find one that you like soon. Thanks, L! :)

  2. Amazing review, Aa'Ishah. I'm really glad to hear this is a dystopia with a difference. I feel like I've seen everything in the genre now so it will be nice to get something a little less typical. I love the sound of the romance too! I'm glad it's well paced. :)

  3. Glad you mostly enjoyed this Aa'Ishah. The dad sounds suffocating and horrible but Maddie seems to have brought some of that on. I love it when the romance works because for me that's usually the most important part of the story. Great review. :)

  4. Wonderful review, A! The technology thingy in this book sounds very interesting and I agree, the MC's dad sounds so horrible. I've met so many annoying parents from YA books lately and really they could make my blood boil. LOL! I'm glad you enjoyed this! :D

  5. Haha, Rachel, I agree about the romance; I don't think I'd be able to enjoy a book if it didn't have some in it, and it HAS to work well if there is. ;)

    The dad is incredibly horrible; since reading YA I've come across so many bad parental figures, and it really makes me angry. This one took things to extremes.

    Thanks, ladies! :)

  6. I don't care if this one is imperfect, your review has me INTRIGUED, A! I love that this is a dystopian book (one of my fave genres of the moment) -- especially that it's not like the normal dystopias you've read! And Maddie's dad doesn't sound like he'll be winning awards LOL... Justin, on the other hand, might! Yay for a well-paced romance with a consistent boy! :)

    Amazing review, A! I've added this and I can't wait to compare thoughts when I read it ;) <3

  7. I would never have guessed this was a dystopia! I love the sounds of it especially how it's more current which makes it a lot scarier! The father sounds a bit annoying though O_O. But I think I,d really like this one. I'm a sucker for everything dystopian! :D

  8. Great review! I added this book to my to be read list when it came out, but I kind of forgot about it in favour of other dystopian novels. I might have to get my hands on Awaken anyway, because it does sound really good (:

  9. I'm glad you enjoyed this book after so many failed attempts at picking it up, I've recently gotten into dystopians more recently and this one does sound really interesting, I think it may be one that I will have to check out, especially with it's different take on things! Great review Aa'Ishah :)


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