(Summary via Goodreads.com)
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
Ugh. Sometimes I hate being right.
Wait!! Who said that?!?!?
Yea, I know. Shocking. I purposely decided to read Awaken after finishing The Book Thief by Markus Zukas because I thought that the remaining two novels would be wonderful, based on personal recommendations from friends, and so I didn’t want to leave it for last, a bad taste in my mouth if you will.
The storyline is quite intriguing, and I love a dystopian novel more than anyone else. I had heard from a student that she, “really really really liked it [Awaken] but it took FOREVER for the good stuff to happen.”
Translation: there’s a hunky guy in the book, but the leading couple doesn’t get it together fast enough.
This isn’t anything new to YA literature, so I was expectantly disappointed in how unrealistic the interactions were between protagonist Maddie and her relentless pursuit of Justin, the leader of an underground movement to overthrow the overdigitized society. Working with teenage girls on a daily basis leaves my heart hardened by the highlighted hormonal aspect of this novel when there is so many possibilities to show Maddie as a strong young woman. In a very vague and underdeveloped backstory, Maddie once went against her father, the creator of the current virtual school system, and stole vital information that could have brought down the backbone of the entire virtual world that America has become in the year 2060. She was caught and has been serving a form of probation, but yet because almost every aspect of life has become a digital representation of our 2013 lifestyle, she is never forced to leave her home anymore than someone who would be under house arrest. Now, almost done with her sentence, she has been recruited to join another antiestablishment group, but this time her seducer is the delicious, and tantalizingly older Justin. Maddie must decide if she is willing to betray her family again for the awakening that she is going through.
My real issues with this story:
1. The underlying message is far too transparent: people are far too dependent on digital entertainment and communication. We no longer value the interaction between two real human beings, but enjoy the simulation of many of our daily tasks. Instead of experiencing life for ourselves, we’re readily willing to swap for the computerized versions. If only Kacvinsky could have kept this as the dominant message, I might have been able to overlook the strong arm approach she had. Next time, please give your audience more credit to be able to detect your purpose.
2. While I appreciate the “awaken” aspect of this novel, there was a far stronger and drawn-out side of the novel: the consuming crush that Maddie has on Justin. Throughout the novel, Maddie’s able to gain a new appreciation for the day-to-day experiences that have been taken from real life and put on a screen: going for a walk in the beach, talking to friends, going for coffee. Now she is able to see the value in human interaction, however she becomes almost obsessed with interacting, on a romantic level only, with Justin. He knows that he’s not good for her, not “not right” as in they don’t connect, but not good for her. He stands his ground, walks away, stifles his own feelings, yet the author insists on making Maddie a gooey, lovestruck girl who won’t give up. She compromises Maddie to look weak when she is supposed to be growing through the awareness of what she has been denied: reality. Ironically, even as she grows in her participation in real life, her sense of reality is skewed because of the man who brings her this new vision.
3. He’s a man! Justin is 20 years old. Maddie is not yet 18. Does anyone else think that it’s totally inappropriate for this to be the age difference??!?! I would be furious if any of my 17 year old female students started dating a 20 year old. And Maddie’s mother only has an issue with Justin and Maddie going out together because of his reputation for being part of this underground movement to overthrow her husband’s life work, but even then SHE STILL LET’S HER GO!!! Her mother even denies responsibility by blaming her husband, “Your dad wouldn’t like it.”
4. Maddie’s character is totally contradictory. In one chapter, Maddie brags about her being in top 3% of her schooling, yet later in the book, Justin attempts to teach her about basic cooking skills by laying out deli meat, cheese, mustard, mayo, peanut butter, lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes. What does she choose to create her very meal as a sandwich artists-in-training? Peanut butter and sliced tomatoes. Are you really trying to convince me that someone who has earned better grades than 97% of her peers doesn’t have a clue as to how to construct a basic sandwich??? Maddie is part of dozens of online groups, including book clubs. In not one of those books does it bring up the basics of sandwich construction?? If these items were not available AT ALL, I could understand why it would be completely foreign to Maddie, but Justin quite easily is able to get her standard food items: eggs, chocolate cake, coffee, pancakes, strawberries, and syrup.
5. If all of the above reasons didn’t convince you that this book is a total let down, then here’s one for you: the book drags on and on and on with this garbage. Kacvinsky could have cut at least five chapters from this novel and we would have still been left with a pile of unattained potential to demonstrate a strong, independent female protagonist, but a lovesick, follow-him-wherever-he-may-go lump. If you’re going to set the women’s movement back 50 years, Kacvinsky, you could have been a little more snappy about it.
There is a sequel to this novel, but I think you already know that I will not be reading it.
1 out of 5 stars.