Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 23 2011
Genre: Young Adult
Format/pages: Hardcover 320 pages
Format read/Source: eGalley via NetGalley
Date read: November 17 2010
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
In Awaken, the year is 2060 and the digital world has taken over. Everything is done online and there is very little face-to-face interaction. Madeline (Maddie) Freeman is 17 and participates in Digital School; an online home based education system created by her father. The only time Maddie ever leaves her house is to play on a soccer team. She is addicted to her flip screen and to communicating through multiple social network channels. Her whole life is on a computer screen; there are no paper books or opportunities to socialize in person. There are not even trees outside; all trees are now synthetic and can be ordered online. Maddie is happy with her life though, and doesn’t understand why her mother has a fondness for the way things used to be.
Maddie, however does have a rebellious streak, and has used her connections and tech savvy in the past to cause some serious trouble. Now her father is monitoring her closely, and every move and click of the mouse is watched. Maddie’s world begins to change when she meets Justin at a study session. Justin wants to go back to a simpler and more unplugged way of life. Maddie begins to see there is a whole other world out there if she can open her mind and heart to the possibility.
It is very easy to relate to the premise of Awaken, where an unstable and violent world forces people to live their lives indoors. This future dystopian world is frightening because it mirrors so much of today’s reality. In Maddie’s world she thinks she is more social and connected than ever with the ways she can interact with her on-screen friends. I was very aware of the fact that I was reading the book on my kindle, and of all the ways the world has switched to digital.
The characters of Maddie and Justin are intriguing. Maddie is smart, brave and inquisitive and it’s fun to watch her eyes open to the world Justin introduces her to. She makes a good match with Justin, who is focused on bringing change to the world, but is also closed off in his own way. Their relationship was a high point of the book for me and I liked how it built slowly. The chemistry is there even though on the surface their lives are so different.
The book is well paced and balanced with action, romance and suspense to keep my interest throughout. It has a good message and provides food for thought to remember to unplug occasionally. Recommended for fans of YA dystopian books, especially if you are looking for something less heavy and disturbing and more on the romantic side. I’m not sure if there are plans for a sequel, but the ending seems to suggest it. Looking forward to reading more from this author. 10/12/11 UPDATE– There will be a sequel! It’s called Middle Ground, and it is scheduled for Fall 2012. The author is holding a contest to win an ARC. Details on Katie Kacvinsky’s website.
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