You’ve probably heard of Wild Awake. If you haven’t you’re probably like me and disconnected from the more modern YA news, or perhaps this is old news that I just was never informed about. The synopsis means to grab your attention (it works) but it also doesn’t nearly prepare you for the actual book.
Kiri’s days are urgent, manic, and feel like the passed both too quickly and too slowly. She’s erratic and talkative, frenetically dedicated to piano, sleepless, high, and unusual. She’s unlike any protagonist I’ve read about, and it’s a double-edged sword.
On one hand, different is good. It’s a breath of fresh air surrounded by a cloud of worry for her antics and well-being. On the other hand, different also meant unrelatable and I can definitely see her character being a hit-or-miss. It’s obvious that Kiri’s going through some sort of episode kick-started by news about her sister’s death five years ago, whether it’s a nervous breakdown or monomania like her friend’s well-meaning mother thinks, or hypomania. And I liked it, with reservations. Yeah. It’s one of those things, sorry.
I applaud the approach, I really do. It felt Smith stepped outside the boundaries of mainstream contemporary and fearlessly tackled a difficult topic of mental illness, but while I thought the representation of the character holds true, it made the novel, as a whole, very tangled, unfocussed, and frazzled. There’s not really a plot. There’s a lot of things mashed together, love, music, grief, and it lacked cohesion—yet I felt like this style was done on purpose. And regardless of the true intent or whatnot, I didn’t really love it. I was like “well, Kiri goes on another chaotic adventure, now what? Oh, she’s going to do it again? Okay. And again? Okay. What now? Where is this headed?” And well, imagine that, throughout the entire book even up till the end where too many things are left unresolved.
I’ve talked about character a lot (very interesting), and the plot (too unfocused for my personal tastes), but what about the writing? It’s… both good and not my thing. Smith clearly has great control of language as her prose is littered with metaphors…. but her prose is littered with so many freaking metaphors. It feels over-written at many points, as if they decided to keep in every description and simile that they were proud of instead of striking out needless text that cluttered the prose. Yes, these metaphors are pretty and flowery, but they were also glaringly obvious and within the first 20 pages I couldn’t stop noticing them, and not in a good way. That said, I really liked the way Smith embodied the show-not-tell, and well, being inside Kiri’s mind was definitely an experience.
There is an undeniable stigma attached to mental illness, but books like Wild Awake are a step in the right direction-- it shows us the tangled, complex, and imperfect nature of humans and life.
I haven't touched on a lot of things-- character relationships in particular, but I really just want to stop rambling. I liked most of them, though. Oh! And this book is set in Vancouver (HECK YES, CANADA!! THEY NOTICED US, FRIENDS!) which is awesome.