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Wild Awake Hardcover – May 28, 2013
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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.
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fabulous writer!!!! And she is young I cant wait to read everything she is going to write !Published 10 months ago by Orph
Kiri adored her older sister Sukey, and was devastated when she died. Kiri grew up believing it was an accident, but when she finds out that Sukey was murdered - and that her... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Radar626
To put it simply, I just loved Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith.
Smith’s writing is lively and beautiful. Read more
It's a dark kind of novel, gut wrenching, it made me feel too much.Published 22 months ago by Amazon Customer
[More of my reviews are available on my blog, Geeky Reading, to which there's a link on my profile.]
This book was not quite what I expected. Read more
I admit that I didn't read past the first page because the subjunctive case wasn't used in terms of the red shirt. Yes, I'm an editor. It makes enjoying reading a lot harder. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Olivia Foster
Hilary Smith is a writer with an interested eye. She notices clocks, carpet, earrings, t-shirts - small poetic details. There are plenty such details in this novel. Read morePublished on June 27, 2014 by Michael Botur
I knew going into Wild Awake that it might not be a “me” book, but so many people loved it that I decided I need to give it a chance. Read morePublished on June 24, 2014 by Stormy