Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Awaken

Author: Katie Kacvinsky

Published: May 23, 2011 by Houghton Mifflin for Children

Number of Pages: 320

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space. [From Goodreads]

Official Review Sent to Houghton Mifflin*:

It’s not often I stumble upon a book that bottles me up inside of it. Awaken pulled me in and proceeded to yank me deeper. The concept of a nation obsessed with technology is not hard to imagine, and it’s not the concept that sells Awaken (though it certainly doesn’t hurt) – it’s the way Katie Kacvinsky twists it and the characters she weaves into it. I was sucked in so violently that the very idea of concentrating during 1st period Geometry was laughable. With a strong and interesting main character full of potential and a love story that is tantalizing and maddening, I don’t believe anyone can blame me for my brief love affair with Awaken.

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened the covers of Awaken. This is Katie Kacvinsky’s first novel, so I had no idea how the book would feel or what tendencies the plot might fall prey to. I had a fresh and eager mentality as I began to read. It wasn’t long at all before I was almost tearing pages as I turned them rapidly in my anticipation.

The premise of Awaken is one I expect will attract a majority of YA readers, but there’s a specific facet of this book that will truly enthrall them (particularly those of the female variety): The love story.

I know that I’m at risk of sounding ridiculous and silly, but Maddie’s love story totally captivated me. It was infuriating (with a positive connotation, of course)! I’ve never read a book in which the love story is drawn out as expertly as it is in Awaken. The two characters were practically discussing their feelings but would not act, and that constant state of expectancy and jittery excitement was felt acutely by both Maddie and myself (the other Maddy). A fantastic attribute of this love story was that there was a reasonable cause for the caution with which they regarded their feelings for each other, and that gave the romance a sort of “forbidden” quality that had nothing to do with either character wanting to eat the other. Wonderful!

On a more reasonable level, Katie’s prose was distinct and remarkably different than much of what I’ve seen lately. There’s a lot more thought and comfortable settling in Maddie’s head as opposed to constant dialogue and action, and though that might turn off those who skip prose to jump to the quotation marks, I encourage readers to take the time to read what Maddie has to say to herself. Her feelings are just as complex as her world and the combination of the two are a huge part of what makes Awaken unique.

The main issue I found was that the plot wasn’t quite as developed as I would have hoped. It took a while for the necessary relationships to evolve to the point that the real plot became evident, but then it moved at a slightly sluggish pace. I would have loved to see Katie take massive twists and turns, but I think the love story was the dominant force in the book. Luckily for her, the romance was right on the mark and kept me engrossed despite the fact that the plotline didn’t seem to reach its potential. (It would make an awesome trilogy, but I haven’t heard anything about a sequel.)

The setup and development of the world and system Maddie lives in was also well done. I loved the natural ways through which she was introduced to new people and circumstances, and I found the general flow of the story to be believable. The various folks she meets along the way are spectacular in their own ways (in other words, they could be wonderfully unlikable as well as likable). There were a few characters who seemed rather reminiscent of characters you’ll find in a lot of YA literature, but that’s likely because they’re the sort of people a lot of readers enjoy reading about.

Essentially, Awaken is a thrilling, tantalizing, and unique novel, and it’s a remarkable debut. There’s no doubt in my mind that I will fight to get my hands on every book of Katie Kacvinsky’s from here on out, and there’s a good chance I’ll devour them in twenty-four hours or less. I recommend it to anyone with a hankering for a delectable romance and refreshingly “different” prose from a debut author!

*Thank you, thank you, thank you for the ARC!

4 Commentsto “Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky; Review”

  1. Whoa, there are OFFICIAL reviews sent to the publisher? Whoooooaaaa. *bows down in worship to Madeleine*

    • Haha – yes! If you continue to post reviews on your blog, it's likely a publisher will contact you and ask if you'd like to review an advanced reader's copy. 😀

  2. The cover of AWAKEN is gorgeous. I'm shallow enough to say that it would draw me in first, but your review is very helpful. Love stories are important too and it's refreshing to know that this debut author seems to know what she's doing. Thanks!

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