by Natasha Preston
published on August 4th, 2015 by Sourcebooks
young adult | thriller | romance
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Scarlett doesn’t remember anything before the age of five. Her parents say it’s from the trauma of seeing her house burn down, and she accepts the life they’ve created for her without question—until a car accident causes Scarlett to start remembering pieces of an unfamiliar past.
When a new guy moves into town, Scarlett feels an instant spark. But Noah knows the truth of Scarlett’s past, and he’s determined to shield her from it…because Scarlett grew up in a cult called Eternal Light, controlled by her biological parents.
And they want her back.
I had been quite excited about this book from the outset. In part, I loved the creepiness of the cover and was hoping that the book inside would match the tone. I also love weirdo cult stories, so I was excited for a dark, gritty thriller. Unfortunately, my feelings about Awake were lukewarm. Despite solid, though not stunning, writing, it’s ultimately a predictable story that depends too little on drama and too much on suspension of disbelief.
For starters, you know what’s going on from the beginning. You get Scarlett’s perspective, and of course she’s in the dark about her past, but you also get Noah’s perspective. He knows exactly who she is and you, as reader, know exactly what his secrets are, so there’s no mystery. This can work for a clever writer, but Preston just doesn’t establish enough dramatic irony. So, I found myself totally aware of the punchline and just waiting for Scarlett to catch on.
Ignoring the slackness in tension, the plot itself is intriguing enough. Enough to keep me reading onward when I could have dropped it as soon as I guessed the ending. Preston has created a pretty interesting apocalyptic earth cult. The members are appropriately eerie, and Scarlett’s role in the cult’s mythology is a cool twist. I liked reading about the cult’s strange rituals.
Unfortunately, I just couldn’t feel invested enough to have much of an opinion on the outcome. The Scarlett/Noah relationship savors strongly of Stockholm. While I found their attraction and Noah’s ambivalence to be believable, even realistic, I just didn’t see the chemistry. I felt as though Preston was telling me they were in love rather than making me buy it. Not to mention, Scarlett’s friends are relatively absent except for Imogen, who is portrayed as a catty, jealous female with little substance.
In the end, this wasn’t a bad book. It just wasn’t my cup of Koolaid. (See what I did there?)
I’m a font of useless knowledge and an endless source of sarcasm. Oh, and I guess I read, too.