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Wild Awake Hardcover – May 28, 2013

3.8 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up–Ever since Kiri Byrd was 12, the only thing she had known about the death of her beloved, yet troubled older sister was that it was accidental. Her parents hadn't even let her go to Sukey's funeral and they certainly never wanted her to talk about her feelings. And so rather than grieve for her sister properly, Kiri threw herself into playing piano. She was the dutiful daughter, causing her parents no unnecessary stress or disharmony. But five years later, Kiri still isn't okay. When her parents leave her alone for six weeks to take an anniversary vacation, Kiri doesn't realize just how much her sister's death has affected her until she receives a mysterious phone call. She discovers that Sukey was murdered. Unsupervised and vulnerable, she quickly spirals out of control–smoking pot, practicing piano for days without sleep–as she learns exactly what happened to the sister she idolized. In this exquisite debut novel, Smith adeptly captures the darkness and betrayal of a family secret. Kiri's narrative is heart-wrenching as she confronts her grief and acts out her frustration at her parents for not only lying to her all these years, but also for abandoning her when she needs them most. The story is beautifully written and engaging, and Kiri's voice is a powerful reminder that life can be full of pain and joy and that to embrace both is good for the soul.–Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd is home alone for the summer while her parents are off on a cruise. Pretty early into her solo tenure, she discovers that her beloved sister, Sukey, wasn’t killed five years ago in a car accident, as she had been told, but was murdered. The experience of dealing with the shocking truth causes her to tumble into a downward spiral, and Kiri’s mental state is alarmingly called into question. She’s a serious musician, preparing for the Young Pianists’ Showcase, which means dedicated practice—but soon she’s not sleeping and manically playing at 5 a.m., while her thoughts go “loud and then normal again.” Through her relationship with Skunk, who suffers from mental illness, Kiri realizes she might be having her own psychological problems, or a “Thing.” Debut author Smith can craft a simile like no one’s business, and her ebullient language drives this story, which captures moments of life at its highest and blurriest points: love, loss, music, freedom. And even though the reader may fear for Kiri, she is unabashed in how she lives her life, and it’s both exhausting—and exhilarating—to watch. Grades 9-12. --Ann Kelley

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062184687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062184689
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,292,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Grade: C-

WIDE AWAKE follows Kiri Byrd's descent into psychosis. Seventeen year old Kiri is the ultimate unreliable narrator, an undiagnosed, hypomanic girl left on her own for six weeks while her parents take a dream anniversary cruise. Her drug addicted, mentally ill homeless older sister had been murdered five years ago, so in their infinite wisdom, Kiri's parents figured leaving her alone for the summer to be a great idea.

She proceeds to alienate her friends and family, while befriending scary people in a bad part of town. Kiri isn't likable, and she's hard to empathize with as she make bad decision after bad decision. Even though her mental illness is at the root of her behavior, I had a hard time caring about Kiri. Skunk, her boyfriend, was a much easier character to embrace. He, at least, had some insight into himself and he behaved much less narcissistically.

Hilary T Smith alludes to her own mental illnesses in her bio, so WIDE AWAKE must be very personal to her. She authentically captures a teen having a manic episode, but felt like Smith told, more than showed the frenetic energy of a manic episode with too many passive verbs. I wished she had immersed me a into the nonstop whirlwind of thoughts, feelings and sensory sensations I've heard from bipolar and manic clients.

WIDE AWAKE lacked a message and a point other then describing a teen's mental decline. There seemed to be s lack of ending, except, perhaps, a set up for treatment, maybe. Nothing about Kiri's personality suggested she'd embrace, respond to or stick with treatment. I don't think I'd recommend the book to teen clients for those reasons, though I might to parents as a caveat for going off medication.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This one was nothing if not a wild ride. Fairly different from everything I've read before, this book is as fearless and reckless as its main character. Kiri was just a kid when her older sister died in an accident. Kiri's life is going well--she's in a band and her parents are on vacation for six weeks--until she gets a call related to Sukey's death. Then this exhilarating weird journey begins and yes there is a yummy boy who ends up being yummier with each page.

I wont deny it, my favorite part of the book was The Boy--Skunk. As much as I enjoyed Kiri and sadly, she reminded me a lot of my teen self, she scared me sometimes. The plot was so unpredictable, it was disconcerting. Not that it was a bad thing, it felt refreshing. It just seemed to change gears with every chapter, to the point where I had to re-read some parts. First you seemed to think it was about Sukey, then it seemed to revolve around Skunk, and then you realize, how could I be so stupid? This book is about Kiri, period.

Characters were vivid, the writing was strong and the overall plot was so weird and modern that it just felt like my cup of tea. Kiri is the kind of wild heroine you often read about from male perspectives or in sci-fi action books. So kudos to the author for bringing this strong whirlwind of a girl to realistic fiction. Strongly recommended for daring contemporary readers.
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Format: Hardcover
With the weight of the expectations I placed upon its spine after declaring its synopsis to be one of the best I'd ever encountered, Hilary T. Smith's debut novel WILD AWAKE had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, it was more than up to the task. WILD AWAKE reminded me of the best type of our favorite and revered Aussie YA: it's whimsical and more than a little odd, but ultimately grounded in the solid reality of common emotions.

When a strange caller informs young pianist Kiri Byrd he has the remains of her dead sister's stuff--a sister who had been dead for years--Kiri's life turns upside down. Kiri struggles to piece together what she's learning about her sister, but doing so sets her on a crash course towards a breakdown, and only by acknowledging it can Kiri hope to live with it, to make it a part of herself.

WILD AWAKE has many strengths, one of which is its startling and beautiful prose. It startles you because Smith is, oftentimes, just noting in passing an everyday detail or thought--only she does so in a way that makes you pause and actually notice what you otherwise would not. The prose tinkles like water trickling over crystal. Its brightness combines with the darker undertones of Kiri's situation for a full symphony of bass emotions and soprano wonder.

From the start, Kiri as protagonist stands out. She is many things, has many identities--a serious pianist, a quipper; a dutiful daughter, a monomaniac--but she owns them all unabashedly, deliberately. Unlike other, forgettable YA protagonists who claim to be artists or rebels or whatever, Kiri doesn't say: she just is, and that makes her being genuine. She's unafraid to plunge herself into making mistakes, with the result that she gets more out of life than those who hang back.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a brilliant depiction of a girl in the throws of a manic episode. I was not at all surprised to find with a little searching that the author had a history of bipolar disorder. She really put herself into this book instead of just watching a couple of movies and faking it, and I applaud her for that.

Also the writing here is gorgeous. It's lyrical and visual without being completely overwrought. It heightens the flavor of the narrative rather than overpowering it.

As many have mentioned, this book does not have the typical story arc with a neat and tidy resolution, but I'm okay with that for a change of pace. I look forward to more from Hilary T Smith.
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