This book is full of awful, awful characters, horrifying ethnic stereotypes, godawful writing, skeevy-as-fuck victim-blaming, rape-culture bullshit, internalized misogyny, and probably the second-worst fucking relationship in YA, after Patch and Nora.
And it was
...that sounds worse than I thought it would. WAIT LET ME EXPLAIN.
So if you aren't already aware, Awoken is a stealth parody, taking depressingly common YA tropes to their (more) disturbing extremes. I wasn't sure whether or not to bring this up, but as amusing (and potentially calm-threatening) as it would be to think this horrifying shit was sincere, I feel like you can't fully appreciate Awoken without the comforting blanket of "parody" tucked firmly around your brain. It's difficult to appreciate the tropes being poked fun at unless you know that they're really for reals poking fun at them, and that could potentially be hard to discern. Not because the author(s) haven't gone above and beyond in making this shit ott and utterly ridiculous, but because, well, waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many authors have played the same shit totally fucking straight.
Our heroine is Andi and oh-my-fucking-god this chick. This chick. I don't wanna say she's the "real monster here", because Cthulu, man, fuck that guy, but Andi is pretty awful. She starts out normally enough I guess, with just your standard Sad Upper-Middle-Class White Girl complex, angsting about how bad her life is because she had to move, even though her best friend moved with her, and she has happy loving parents, and a decent school life, BUT WOE IS HER, the town is so boring, her existence is meaningless, yadda yadda.
I stared up at the ancient white wooden beams above me— my parents had been so excited to renovate this old ship maker’s house when we moved in two years ago. They left the ceiling beams exposed because they said it gave the house character.
“This house has more meaning than my life,” I groaned aloud.
Then Riley shows up and of course she ~knows him from a dream~, and he's a dick to her, and they don't even talk civilly once, so naturally, it's a straight shot for both to Obsession City.
After he’d been so weird and smug and then downright threatening, why couldn’t I just be relieved that he wasn’t at school anymore to give me that smoldering look of disdain he had reserved special for me?
The relationship between Riley and Andi is about as depressing as you'd expect, the power balances having been slid allllll the way to the end of their respective scales. Riley is overtly menacing, controlling, and possessive. Those are literally the only traits he displays. He's incapable of not being condescending, even when he's trying to be romantic, and he almost never addresses Andi as anything other than "[insert synonym for "small" or "unimportant" here] one". I'm gonna say that like 95% of his lines were straight-up non-sugarcoated orders directed at Andi, and the other 5% were orders directed at other people, or exposition. All 100% was(were?) in flawless Ye Olde Formal Speake.
“When we met in the realm of dreams, our destinies became entwined irrevocably. Thus do I hereby anoint you as my sacred charge and accept you as my burden, my albatross. I shall protect you always, for you are small and weak. And I am greater than you.”
He totally talks like that for the entire book.
He's also an unabashed murderer who solves most of his problems by driving people insane and then eating them. Cuz Cthulu.
For her part in the relationship, Andi took the Bella/Kate "cripplingly co-dependent" option, with tasty swirls of "relentless dismissal of self-worth" and "blind obedience". Most of her interactions with Riley (positive or not) left her berating herself for her unworthiness, or concocting increasingly elaborate scenarios for his continued presence in her life, because he couldn't possibly be interested in a boring, plain, mundane girl like her.
No! No. I would not cry. Not anymore. I was not worthy to cry over him. The mere fact that I dared to even entertain the notion that he might have even considered staying was an insult to him!
And it's at this point that I realize that this all probably sounds far more disturbing than funny...
Read full review at You're Killing.Us