Title: Wild Awake
Author: Hilary T. Smith
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
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.
This is my second 2013 debut in a row, and it went much like the last one: I did enjoy it but had a few minor problems with it.
Even a few days after finishing this book, I’m not totally sure how I feel about protagonist Kiri. There were times I identified with her and liked her, and then there were other times where I had trouble understanding her and even sympathizing with her. She was obviously affected by her sister’s death, but there were times that I had trouble figuring out if she had an undiagonoised mental problem or if her actions were just the result of that grief. She seemed a bit uneven, and even though I think author Hilary T. Smith intended it that way, it kind of confused me as a reader.
Then there’s the romance. I think I’ve seen other reviews that seemed a bit iffy of the romance, and though I initially supported it and it seemed to be a bit of a slow burning romance, at some point it almost seemed to turn into insta-love and seemed less genuine. Skunk, the love interest, was initially intriguing and I liked him, but his paranoia seemed to pop up out of nowhere (of course, that could just be me totally missing things) and made it difficult for me to support him, which made me feel kind of bad because he did have a diagnosed mental problem that seemed pretty genuine later on but just stumbled at the beginning, at least for me.
The story of Kiri’s sister, however, was interesting pretty much the entire time. This book wasn’t really a mystery, at least I wouldn’t classify it as such since you don’t have to wait for the very end to finally figure out what the hell’s going on, but it was an intriguing story that kept me turning the pages to figure out what had happened to her. It was probably my favorite part of the story.
The writing in this book was often interesting, with some beautiful metaphors that you often find in contemporary books. There were times that I felt slightly lost, but those were in scenes when Kiri felt pretty lost as well, so it worked well. I would stop reading for a moment for whatever reason and I would feel really confused and not myself because I was so into whatever was happening to Kiri at the moment.
So, there were some minor issues with this book, but overall I thought it was a very enjoyable debut and I plan on checking out Smith’s books in the future.