Book Title/Author: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
Publisher/Year: Katherine Tegan May 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA
Other Books From Author: None
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!