Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith | Book Review

Wild Awake by Hilary T. SmithBook Title/Author: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
: Katherine Tegan May 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No
Other Books From Author: None

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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!




Kiri’s parents are cruising around the world for most of the summer — leaving Kiri alone to devote her time to playing piano, practicing for Battle of the Bands and hanging out with Lukas — her best friend and bandmate and maybe something else. Her summer plan is in full swing until she gets a mysterious phone call that brings her into a seedy part of the city to retrieve some stuff that belonged to her older, and now deceased, sister whom she looked up to. Her perfectly planned summer suddenly spirals into something she couldn’t have planned for as she learns the truth about her sister’s life, relives her loss over again and meets someone who helps her to live and learn to be free.

OH MAN. This is easily one of my favorite reads of 2013 and I think it could be a pretty high in the most memorable FOR LIFE category. I read it back in February, did my Save the Date for it and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I just keep longing to reread it so I can just absolutely lose myself in the beautiful prose (and of course Kiri’s story). It’s one of those books that made remember me why I love words. Hilary T. Smith just has this ability to just light them on fire and let them explode in my heart. It’s got the sort of lyrical, dazzling prose that makes me dog-ear pages like mad. (You know dog-earing is my dirty little secret..shh).


It’s not just that Hilary T. Smith’s writing is something pretty. It’s that she writes in a way that makes you FEEL everything. The writing matches the energy that Kiri exudes. It’s chaotic, frenetic and sometimes deliriously mad. The writing in Wild Awake is vivid and definitely is more of in Kiri’s head and just streams onto the pages from it. Everything Kiri feels is INTENSE — her joy is so high and her sadness just plunges — and that energy just pulses through you and holds you captive. Even the CITY Kiri is traveling around in just felt ALIVE. I noted back in February that her writing reminded me a bit of Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me, a hint of Jandy Nelson’s THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE and a good dash of some of my favorite Aussies like Cath Crowley or Melina Marchetta.

I feel like I’m talking a lot about the writing in this review but it’s the way it is written that makes Kiri’s story so stunning. The plot itself was quite interesting and moved well enough. I thought it was going to be a very straightforward, cute contemporary novel but this is not what you are going to get, just so you know. As Kiri learns more about her sister she plunges more into her grief and chaos — getting lost in her own head. Her story is electric and the writing is what makes it feel so special.  Written without the sort of qualities Hilary T. Smith infuses, I think it wouldn’t have had SUCH an effect on me. It would have been a good story but the plot is so much wrapped up in the writing and the very unusual and alive Kiri. I loved the people she met along the way on her journey though I can’t say the romance was swoonworthy for me but I really LIKED it in the scope of the novel.

It was a very emotional book in a lot of unexpected ways and in unexpected places. It’s so hard to read sometimes because you feel Kiri and her story weighing on your heart and you are watching her be reckless, obsessive and mad as she is learning the truth about what happened to her sister. Losing a sister is obviously emotional but Wild Awake had quite a few scenes that took me by surprise and were extremely tear inducing for me unexpectedly. It wasn’t obvious but the crying just visceral. That book was like a magnet attracting my tears to it. I also wanted to rage a lot at her parents and sometimes at Kiri herself. It’s intense to read about someone having this breakdown but to really FEEL it while you are reading? WOW.

However, as I noted back in February, this book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea BECAUSE of the writing. It makes me sad but I accept it to be true. Some people also, as the reviews started coming in after my Save the Date, brought up the use of marijuana in this novel and, I gotta be honest, it didn’t bother me. It felt real, rather than gratuitous or for shock value, and it seemed to me Kiri was just trying to FEEL something other than what she was feeling. I saw some reviews that felt all the “madness” was a result of her being high and I 100% feel differently about that. It goes beyond that.

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith is ONE OF MY FAVORITES THIS YEAR!! If you like vivid, dazzling prose that matches the energy the character exudes in all its frenetic and chaotic glory definitely give Wild Awake a chance. It definitely was a special novel to me and not at all what I was expecting which was a cute albeit a little emotional, straightforward contemporary novel about a sister finding out some secrets about her deceased sister. Sure, that’s what it is about but it is SO MUCH MORE. If you loved  The Sky Is Everywhere or the writing style of Aussie authors like Melina Marchetta, Cath Crowley etc I’d say you might like this, too!



 Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
And because this book is just so quoteable another quote:


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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I really, really liked this book! Sure, I had my issues with it, but the writing won me over. It was full of metaphors and prettiness, and I will absolutely read future books from Hilary. This book was totally quotable, and I may or may not be planning on painting a certain inspiration. (:

    Great review!

    P.S. Those quotes you made are totally something I’d reblog on Tumblr…hint hint. (;

  2. I really, really liked this book! Sure, I had my issues with it, but the writing won me over. It was full of so many metaphors and so much prettiness, and I will absolutely be reading future books from Hilary. I had some problems with the marijuana, but just with how it was/wasn’t acknowledged by some people. Kiri had an erratic wildness to her, and in my review I kept calling the book what it was–wild. And Skunk just made her even more wild, which I liked. It’s totally quotable, and I may or may not be planning to paint a certain painting/inspiration. (:

    Great review!

    P.S. I like how you made the quotes all fancy, and they’re totally something I’d reblog on Tumblr…hint hint. (;

  3. Look at you and your fancy dancy graphics. I love and adore how you mix up your blog.

  4. Oh Jamie, I remember your “Mark the Date” post about this one and you were so excited that I also wanted to read it. Sadly, I didn’t know what to expect and was totally confused when the story did such a confusing turn. I’m happy you loved it and I think this is one of those books that you either love or..do not love so much..

  5. I’ve heard quite a lot of positive reviews about this so far! And it really sounds compelling. I love good writing, and I’m all for emotional books. I’ve been looking for some, actually, and I’ll definitely pick this up when I see it in a bookstore.

    P.S. How did you make the post it image?

  6. Oh wow Jamie. This book sounds absolutely amazing. I adore how you designed the quotes for your review as well! I’ve been dying for a good contemporary recently and this definitely looks like the way to go. 🙂 Fantastic review as always!

  7. Sounds like a great read and agree about the quotes… i’d put on my Tumbler too

  8. I have heard a lot of amazing things about this book.It really sounds like something that I would enjoy. I need to get my hands on this one.

  9. I’ve seen this around quite a bit and am definitely going to try it out now. I’m glad that you loved it so much! If it’s one of your favourite books of 2013, then it must be good!

  10. I am a sucker for lyrical writing. I wan’t going to pick this one up, but now I may have to!

  11. Girl SHOOT. This book sounds really fantastic! I have a copy so I’m not sure why I haven’t read it yet. I’m so excited to dive into Smith’s writing– a mix of ALL of those lovely authors?! I already know that I’m going to enjoy that aspect. I’m so pleased to hear that the plot was so much more than what you expected it to be. The emotional weight that Smith was able to portray through Kiri’s character sounds quite astonishing. I’m a little worried about the marijuana aspect, but I really do want to give this book a try, anyway. Gorgeous review, Jamie!

  12. You sold me with the Melina Marchetta reference. I just finished On the Jellicoe Road last night, and I adored it.

  13. This book sounds really interesting. If something has stunning writing, it’s always worth a read. Great review 🙂

  14. This is one of my favorites of the year as well. I think Kiri is manic and you’re right about the writing reflecting her mental state. The writing is what I focused on in my review as well because it’s so lush and moving. Fab review!

  15. I just finished this book, LOVED it, and agree with everything you have to say. I also compared it to Shatter Me, as it is basically a lighter version of the same writing style; in both cases, the prose is gorgeous and the narrator is unstable, but Hilary T. Smith is a bit more subtle about it, which reads brilliantly. The “madness” is hilarious, passionate, engaging and SO much more that the drugs. And the quotes. I wanted to transcribe this entire novel onto my wall, but will have to settle for saving your adorably designed exerpts onto my iPod. This is a perfectly descriptive review, and I’m glad you loved the book! I’m hoping more than anything else that the author has a new project in the works.

  16. Oh! Your review makes me all the more excited to read it! I just made a summer list for the next few weeks and this one was on it, and now I think I’ll bump it to the top. I’m a bit nervous about the writing I’ll admit, but I can usually adapt easily, so we’ll see!

  17. You pretty much mentioned my 3 favourite authors as comparisons so I am definitely adding this one to my TBR list! I love the kind of writing that sings like that.

  18. The more I think about this one, the better it sets with me. I was middle-of-the-road on it – I didn’t love it, nor did I totally hate it as I first thought after finishing it. I loved the writing, and the emotions to it felt really stunning and genuine. But I loathed Kiri’s parents, and Kiri herself made me SO mad. I know she couldn’t help some of the things she did, but others she COULD have, and I never liked or respected her. I did end up feeling really BAD for her. I think my favorite aspect was how she got to know the real Sukey after her death.

    Wonderful review, Jamie!

  19. I’ve been seeing so much about this one. It sounds like an amazing book and looks like you really loved it! What a great review!

    Thanks Jamie!

    Sara @ Just Another Story

  20. I can’t wait to read this book, honestly, as most of my friends have read it and loved it! Even though I’m sure I’ll find the writing jarring initially, it still sounds like such an incredible story. Kiri also sounds like an incredibly real character, and I love that!

  21. Oh fail! You just posted this review when I told you the other day I wanted to read this after your review. I meant Save the Date post! But really, if your Save the Date, review and Twitter talk didn’t convince me to read this book, the quotes totally would have! It really sounds like my type of read. Fingers crossed I love it as much as you!

  22. I started this book this week after reeling from Golden, I just wanted a contemporary as good as that one. And I was loving it so muchhhhhhhhhhh, but I read a spoiler and stopped halfway through. I’m scared of finishing it tbh. And now I’m sort of not in the right mood for it? And it makes me want to kick myself because I really want to finish reading it. /crazy

    Your review is pretty accurate when it comes to the writing, it’s just freaking great. I’ve been highlighting so many quotes! And the romance! I really like Skunk, and them together, but I’m still a bit suspicious of him, I can’t wait to know more about his backstory.

    Hopefully I can pick it back up soon enough and finish it. I want to love it.


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