AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky

Posted 28 July, 2011 | Mary @ TheBookSwarm | | 9 Comments

YA Dystopian
320 pages
Available now (released May 2011)
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review
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.

As I am both a tech geek and a teacher, this one immediately caught my attention. What a concept — and so close to real life! As more and more students forgo brick-and-mortar schools for virtual ones and violence in our society reaches epic levels, I can almost see a society like the one in AWAKEN emerging. Of course, as a good dystopian society, AWAKEN takes the idea of virtual life and raises the stakes to the Nth power, beyond anything that would actually happen in real life (…we hope).

This isn’t just a story of virtually-bound Maddie and free-spirit Justin meeting and “carving out their own space”. Maddie is the daughter of the founder and director of Digital School. Having rebelled against her father and his ideals several years earlier, she is on probation and watched like a hawk. While she still doesn’t agree with what her father does or what he expects of her, she tries to toe the line, at least until she’s off probation and no longer has the threat of jail hanging over her head. But then she meets Justin, who completely shakes up her world. He encourages her to act on her impulses, to go out dancing or sit with friends, something totally unusual and not really accepted in their world.

I really like Maddie’s character. She is smart and had a pretty serious secret, a rebellious act that turned deadly, which adds to the conflict she feels about Justin as well as her ongoing battles with her father. However, I’m not a fan of Justin. Maybe it’s because he was so sneaky in the beginning. He wants so much from her without seeming to give up anything of himself. This changes as readers get to know more about him but I’m still not a huge fan.

AWAKEN is a creepily realistic look at a future that takes security several steps too far. I think I’m going to have to add this one to the list of novels in the dystopian unit I teach!

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9 Responses to “AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky”

  1. I really want to read this one – I’d forgotten about it for a while but I must go and add it to my wish list now!!

    Great review.

  2. I’ve been meaning to get this one because it sounds more like the type of dystopian I can like.

    Your review was lovely and thoughtful and it did give me a better idea of what the book is about, so I’m going to go bump it up a little in my To Buy list.


  3. I wasn’t a huge fan of Justin either, he seemed a bit too high and mighty for me. He kept trying to get everyone to accept change and fight for what they want, but yet he wouldn’t do either of things for Maddie. Still loved the concept though, it was definitely thought-provoking given how easily we could be headed in that direction!

  4. @Ashley, while it wasn’t the best dystopian I’ve ever read, I liked how it addressed something very close to home. For me, at least, I can get completely lost in my virtual world.

    @Jenny, thanks for reading my review correctly! I was missing a key “not” as in “not a fan of Justin”. He was just so singularly focused on his goals, he kind of rode over Maddie’s concerns.

    @ Alex, Coreena, Jules & Christy — I hope you enjoy it, if you get a chance to read it! It’s very well written with some great voice.

    Happy reading, all, and thanks for commenting. 🙂

  5. I liked Awaken, but I can’t say I loved it. The writing style just wasn’t as honed enough for me, but the plot was enjoyable. And I’m with you on not being a fan of Justin 😉

  6. You teach a dystopian unit?! Why couldn’t I have a teacher like you in school?!

    Great review – I read this one too and although it’s not my favorite dystopia novel, I think it’s an important one because of how close it is (and could be) to reality. I can totally see our world going this direction if we aren’t careful.

    I also agree with you about Justin. He bothered me.

    The Musings of ALMYBNENR