by Katie Kacvinsky

Awaken cover imageMaddie goes through life like everyone else: she gets through her classes, she meets people for coffee, she attends movies and shops. All online of course. From the safety of her own house, where you can’t be hurt. Where you are safe from shootings, stick-ups and other assorted everyday real-world dangers.

That’s the world Maddie lives in – especially with her father running the online school system. Which is why it is so odd for her to be invited to a study group – with actual people. And, even weirder, that she actually likes being around people.

Another dystopian, one might say. Not this one. I LOVE dystopian books. I love the uniqueness of the problem (in this case that everyone’s just staying inside out of fear and not actually living.), I love the background story of how we got to this point (Awaken’s backstory is one of the few that I’ve felt could happen in the near future) and there’s almost always an at-odds love story (sigh – in a good way, I promise).

As I mentioned in parenthesis, Awaken has an intriguing backstory that could easily happen five or ten years from now. School violence forces a radical change – to move all education online, to the safety of one’s home. The fallout of this change is that soon everything moves online. You meet in virtual coffee shops while drinking coffee from your own house, you “screen” movies with friends from your bedroom, alone. The dominoes begin to fall as living becomes more and more obsolete.

Don’t get me wrong – people do get out in the book. People go out for work, they go out for occasional social events, it’s just not the norm. And it is rather sad. Maddie’s responses to finally interacting with the real world are so naive, they’re almost heartbreaking.

I also really liked the love story in this one. It didn’t jump off the page, like other dystopian relationships in other books, but it grew rather nicely. Maddie questions many things about the boy she likes, instead of just letting him steamroll her own thoughts and ideas down.

I had two issues with this one, and both issues are small. 1. I didn’t find the big, climactic confrontation scene to be that climactic. Maybe I’m crazy, but it didn’t seem like Maddie put forth too much of an effort. 2. While I thought the backstory was well developed, I could have used a bit more current world building. I never really grasped what society was really like in this changed environment. (Which, now that I type that, maybe I couldn’t know because Maddie was so in her own world she didn’t know? Perhaps?)

This one was on my TBR pile for a good, long while and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. Does it top my list of favorite dystopian novels? No. But it’s a good, interesting read if you’re a fan of the genre.

Available: Now, from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Where it came from: egalley from Netgalley, provided by the publisher by request.


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