Reynje's Reviews > Awaken

Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
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Sep 18, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: e-book-kindle, read-2011, young-adult, not-for-me
Read from September 18 to 20, 2011

Conceptually, I liked this book. The subject matter is topical, and I feel that the arguments presented are valid and worth discussion. The issues Kacvinsky conflates to build her future world will resonate with anyone who has even half a finger on the current technological pulse, or an interest in social anthropology in general.

In execution, however, this novel left me with fairly lukewarm feelings.

Fast forward to 2060, when escalating violence and rapid advancements in technology have caused the lives of US citizens to invert. Education and social interaction take place largely online. Private transport is uncommon. Writing longhand and paper books are practically obsolete (*gasp!*) And almost everybody is “plugged in”, armed to the teeth with phones, “flipscreens”, even “MindReaders”. There’s no longer just “an app for that”, there’s a device that will do it for you.

We meet Maddie, daughter of the founder of Digital School, suffering the consequences of a past rebellion and living her life mostly within the confines of her home. Enter Justin, a mysterious online study group contact, who extends the unusual invitation to meet in person, and offers Maddie a glimpse of another kind of life.

This is not a subtle book. You do not have to read between the lines, because the lines essentially leap off the page and hit you in the face. Whether through the internal musings of Maddie herself, or via Justin’s eloquent speeches – he occasionally sounds more like a travelling sage than a (view spoiler) year old guy – the evils of technology gone too far are expounded loud and clear. I’d go so far as to say there isn’t really subtext here. Just text. To wit: as life becomes increasingly tied to technology and thus devoid of physical and emotional connection, it tears away at the foundation of what it is be human, and the intrinsic value of relationships.

I don’t disagree with many of the sentiments that the characters / the story express. And Kacvinsky’s writing is clear with some nice, expressive turns and genuinely profound lines. Maddie is not an entirely unsympathetic protagonist and it’s pleasing to see that she takes some of her choices into her own hands. So perhaps I should simply chalk this one up to not being to my particular taste.

While my interest was piqued by the beginning, I felt that the mid section of the narrative was somewhat flaccid. It paints an accurate picture of the boredom of Maddie’s restricted, virtual life – but my attention waned considerably. The pacing increases throughout the latter chapters, but I felt here that the story relied heavily on the reader’s investment in the Maddie/Justin will they/won’t they relationship to pull them through the plot, as opposed to Maddie’s actual predicament. I’ll admit that for me, the chemistry between the characters fell flat. There are "swoony" moments between them – but the constant expository, didactic dialogue was a little frustrating.

In terms of the climax, it was well-paced, but relied heavily on convenient twists and pulled together rather too neatly for me to completely buy into. And while the ending leaves threads loose to be picked up in the sequel, I can’t help but feel that maybe it would be a stronger book if it stood alone. The hopeful, yet slightly melancholic note of the final pages might have reinforced the impact of the story, lingered more, had I not know that they would be picked back up and extended later. I may be alone in this opinion – I’m sure that there are plenty of readers who are eager to get reacquainted with these characters and follow their story.

Awaken is well-written (view spoiler) and poses some interesting, albeit very blunt, questions. I can see that the speculative nature of the story and the character’s relationships will be appealing to some – however the style in which the themes were delivered made this not really my kind of book.
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Reading Progress

16.0% "It's a good thing my sense of irony is alive and well, as I'm reading this on a kindle."
25.0% "Subtlety: This book does not have it. If it was a person it would be shouting: “Log off facebook! Turn off your computer! Be free, lemmings, BE FREE!” And while that’s a sentiment I can get behind, I’m not sure I appreciate the hit-over-the-head-style delivery." 4 comments
46.0% ""A few weeks passed and boredom fell over me like a suffocating blanket." Sigh. I hate to say it, but this book is boring me like suffocating blanket.."
80.0% 7 comments
01/22 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Limonessa (new)

Limonessa Mh. I took this book off my TBR list just recently. Maybe it was a good idea.

Reynje I liked the writing in parts, but I found the lecture-ish tone really off-putting. I was disappointed, to be honest.

Janina Lisa O. wrote: "Mh. I took this book off my TBR list just recently. Maybe it was a good idea."

I would say it was a very good idea.

It really beats you over the head with its anti-technology message. Not that I disagreed with that message, but I would have preferred it to be more subtle.

This was my very first Netgalley book. Imagine my disappointment ...

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