Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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Title: Wild Awake
Author: Hilary T. Smith
Narrator: Shannon McManus
Series: n/a
Publisher: HarperAudio
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Source: purchased audio, received galley from publisher for review
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

In Wild Awake, Hilary T. Smith’s exhilarating and heart-wrenching YA debut novel, seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd has big plans for her summer without parents. She intends to devote herself to her music and win the Battle of the Bands with her bandmate and best friend, Lukas. Perhaps then, in the excitement of victory, he will finally realize she’s the girl of his dreams.

But a phone call from a stranger shatters Kiri’s plans. He says he has her sister Suki’s stuff—her sister Suki, who died five years ago. This call throws Kiri into a spiral of chaos that opens old wounds and new mysteries.

Like If I Stay and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Wild Awake explores loss, love, and what it means to be alive.

I went in to Wild Awake expecting, well, kind of a wild ride.  I expected a bit of a crazy YA contemporary that I would ultimately find fun and engaging.  And I got that.  But I was not prepared for the convoluted, messy story that this book diverged into.  I mean, one minute, I'm reading along, happily oblivious -- kind of like Kiri on her bike -- and then WAM!  I find myself in the middle of Crazytown, and Kiri is the mayor.

For the record, I'm rather fond of the unreliable narrator.  Not only does an unreliable narrator make for an interesting story, but it also keeps me guessing, and considering the plethora of novels I've read in the last couple of years, that's a hard thing to do.  I find that one of my major complaints after finishing most novels is that they are easily predictable.  Trust me when I tell you that Wild Awake is anything but.  You'll have no idea what's on the horizon or if you even want to know -- you probably don't -- but for some reason, Kiri's narrative is captivating and despite any reservations, you're still on board for whatever comes next.

Wild Awake is a realistic portrayal of grief...and of life in general, in some crazy, out-of-body kind of way.  To grieve properly, one must allow themselves to feel the despair associated with the situation, and if one isn't allowed to do so, the grief may manifest itself in unhealthy ways.  Because of the choices Kiri's sister made prior to her death, her family essentially wrote her off, and Kiri wasn't really allowed to grieve for her, then or now.  If it hadn't been for that strange phone call during her parent's absence, she might still never have grieved.  But then we wouldn't have this magnificent, chaotic story to dissect.

Kiri doesn't start out the story out-and-out crazy.  She's a rather well-rounded individual, pining after the unattainable guy, playing in a band, and practicing concert piano.  Kiri has goals and aspirations.  Until that call, which derails all her plans.  She fixates on her sister's death -- and her life, to be honest -- to the point that it becomes dangerous and someone should have already stepped in to help.  Except that her family is away on an extended vacation.  The missing parents and the reality of what they'd been hiding from Kiri would have bothered me more if they hadn't returned toward the end, not to make amends but to instead get Kiri the help she'd needed all along.

She does meet the helpful Skunk on her search for the truth about her sister's death.  This guy was the most unlikely love interest I think I've ever met, and it took awhile for his appeal to reach me.  Especially when he proved to be a bit unstable, as well.  But their connection was forged over shared passions:  biking and music.  These were the outlets for the chaos in their minds, so it was fitting that these were the things that brought them together in the first place.  Theirs was not a squishy, swoony romance, but it felt like a genuine connection, however unexpected it may have been.

Shannon McManus was the perfect choice to voice Kiri.  As Kiri's thoughts start to spin out of control, so did McManus' narration.  The narrator's voice took on a maniacal clarity, if that makes any sense.  Prior to the downward spiral, McManus portrayed Kiri as a spunky, fast-talking teenage girl.  Post-meltdown, she's an even faster-talking teenage girl, but with an edge of insanity to her voice.  The noticeable change made the audiobook experience that much more authentic.

Wild Awake was a tumultuous story, full of highs and lows, all centered around Kiri's grasp on reality as she discovered the truth of what happened to her sister that night five years ago.  This novel was confusing and exhilarating, but in the end, it was even a little bit cathartic.  Seeing someone else's crazy always makes you feel a little better about your own, right?

Rating:   photo 4-1.png

About the author:

Hilary T. Smith wanders, but is not lost. Also known as the formerly anonymous publishing industry blogger INTERN, Hilary is nowa full-time writer and wilderness lover. She wrote various parts of Wild Awake while living in a van, on a houseboat, and in an off-the-grid cabin seven miles from the nearest paved road. By the time you read this, she will probably be living somewhere new, but you can always visit her online.

Find Hilary:

BlogTwitter | Goodreads | Tumblr


  1. I can't tell you how happy I am to read this review, Jen! I've seen so many that really didn't seem to like the story or Kiri, and that's fine, but I've been looking for an alternate viewpoint to convince me to give it a try!

  2. I kind of put this one on the back burner after reading several not-so-favorable reviews. I'm happy to see how much you enjoyed it. I'm thinking maybe I should go audio route on this one as well, since you enjoyed it so much. Thanks for the review! :)

  3. i haven't heard the greatest things about this one, especially how random the character and plot was, though the narrator sounds fantastic.

    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

  4. I love the cover of this. I'm glad that you like it. I have read some really bad reviews for this.
    Thanks for the review!


  5. Awesome review.I have mine written just need to tweak it some. i loved the audio of this book. I too was expecting a wild ride. I never expected what I did get and it was really really good. The narrator did do an awesome job. I remember at one point thinking i had to stop listening for a while because I was feeling a bit manic. I really felt this character.

  6. I can imagine that this one would be a lot of fun in audio - also CRAZY! Wild Awake is a book that I was shocked that I liked as much as I did, but you're right it is unexpected and unreliable narrators are my favorite. Plus I fell HARD for Skunk, though like you, I was like WHO IS THIS PERSON? at first. This is a great review of a book that has still stuck with me at least a month after I finished it.

  7. I've heard mixed reviews about this one, but I love yours! I'm glad for the warning of the kinda unstable love interest, but at the same time, he intrigues me. I think this would be perfect on the days where I think I'm insane and my life is too crazy. Oh wait...that's every day...


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