Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Title : Wild Awake
Author : Hilary T. Smith
Genre : Contemporary
Expected Publication : May 28th 2013
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Pages : 375
Source : Publisher, in exchange for a fair and honest review
Rating : ✿✿✿✿✿

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.

Review

From looking at its title and cover, I first thought that this book would be a perfect light summer read about love and self-discovery. But although I was right about the love and self-discovery, it turned out that this book was way more serious than I first thought it was. And while it was not what I expected it to be, let's say it was not a bad surprise either.

"The soul has a home of its own"
—Sukey

Wild Awake told us as Kiri spent her usual evening practicing bad on her friend's Lukas basement. Her parents were on vacation, and she had a plan to spend the whole summer doing perfection : practicing classic piano for her course, win The Battle of Band with Lukas, water her Mom's azalea, and being a good girl. But when she got home and received call from her sister's Sukey friend, who claimed he had her sister's things, Kiri's life started to go downhill. 
Because Sukey had been dead for five years. 
And what her parents said about the death may not be so true after all. 
As Kiri learned what really happened to her sister, and also falling in love with the mysterious Skunk, she also learned what it means to be alive. But what if the reality was not as pretty as the secluded world she had been living on her whole life?

This book started off a bit slow for me, but quite early on the story, it finally picked up the pace and became really interesting. Starting with the mystery phone call, the truth behind Sukey's—Kiri's sister—death that had been buried for five years finally resurfaced, and it's up to Kiri to learn what really happened to Sukey, things she never had the chance to. 
I especially love how Hilary T. Smith unfolded the truth little by little, telling us a story about how Sukey was when she was alive and building our feelings for her, before telling us what really happened to her. The whole story really left an impact on me, as I felt really connected with Sukey, and the telling was not info-dump or stating-the-obvious-thing either. It also flowed well with Kiri's current life, and it really added the feeling that we're not really walking on the past either.

Kiri as our main character, really had a strong and distinct voice. Her narration was really strong, and it gave us enough information about what going on around her, while still stayed true to her personality. One thing that really left an impression on me was her sarcastic inner thought, which I personally think, was really entertaining. The conflicts playing on her mind was also a perfect way to portray a teenage girl, and Kiri really managed to capture that I'm-living-my-life feeling we teenagers have.
But, even thought her voice was brilliant, I found her became somewhat weird and a little bit annoying somewhere in the middle of this book. Sure, we would later know why. But while reading the part where she really became weird—and we weirded out—we have no idea what had happened to her. And while this weird things lasted a little bit long, I think it was kinda risky because that could make the readers feeling totally confused, and therefore decided to not read the book any further. Because, seriously, her narration made me feel stressed because she was kind of stressed and it was contagious, and it was just like, ugh.
The other characters, however, was not as brilliant as Kiri. Skunk, our other main character, was honestly flat and uninteresting. It felt that his life only happened whenever Kiri was around, and while she wasn't, boom, feels like he just disappear. I can't imagine his life, what happened on an ordinary night when he and Kiri just live their own life separately, or whatever he was doing outside the story. He basically didn't seemed real enough for me, and for a main character like him, I think it was a big no-no quality.

The side character was even worse. Denny—Kiri's brother—was really typical and literally unimaginable. His physic description was really lacking, his personality really standard, and his reaction way too typical. If only the side characters were even a little bit memorable, I would surely give this book four stars. Just, they weren't, at all, memorable or unique. Same thing goes to Lukas, Petra, Doug, and basically the whole casts beside Kiri and Skunk. 
And Sukey, because she was the one I found on par with Kiri. She was brilliant, and stood out, even with the fact that she was no longer around. I love how she tried to look strong and free and rebellious, but inside was just a scared girl trying to discover herself and what she really wanted in her life. And when Kiri's perception of her and the true reality about her clashed with each other, it also added a really nice effect that made it easy for me to sympathize and admire her even more.

Aside from the part when Kiri became really weird, and also the sadly uninteresting side character, things I didn't like from this book was there were some things left unexplained. Sure, they were not a major point of the story, but they were not also small we could overlooked it either. Such as when Kiri was offered pills and she took it, what happened inside her body? Because I sure knew that was not just a pill, it's a 'pill' with quotation marks, and yet it didn't had any explained effect? Oh yeah. 
And what happened with Doug's leg? And where in hell did the alias Skunk came from? And so many more. It was such a little details, but those details are what made this story believable. And yet, they weren't explained.

Overall, this book was quite a nice read, with a slow opening but it would suck you in after a few pages. The ending wrapped it nicely too, and if you're looking for a contemporary reads with a strong, distinct, and unique voice about love, music, self-discovery, and what it feels to be alive, you should definitely try this one.

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