Thursday, July 21, 2011
Awaken - Katie Kacvinsky
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Pub Date: 05/23/2011 (on shelves NOW!)
Reviewed from: egalley received from publisher
Awaken is a dystopian book* set in a future where school violence has let to all school being done at home on the internet. Everyone has become completely disconnected from everyone else - meeting someone face to face is rare. Ok, can we start by noting the weirdness of reading this book as an e-book?** And I read the majority of this book on my phone so every time they mentioned the ubiquity of everyone's "flipscreens" and how everyone seems glued to said flipscreens? I felt a huge pang of guilt.
*insert obligatory "all YA books nowadays are dystopian" comment
** I have a feeling that, since they gave out a lot of egalleys of this book that this has been a fairly common sentiment in the blogosphere. But I try to avoid reviews of books that I'm going to review because my opinion is easily swayed so I'm going to pretend that I'm original and brilliant here, ok?
Our hero, Maddie, is the daughter of the founder of digital school. A few years back she aided some hackers to try to take down digital school which broke her father's trust in her and she's been grounded ever since. Her father monitors everything she does online and the only bit of face-to-face socialization she gets is at soccer. Then she meets Justin online who convinces her to come to an in person study session and all heck breaks loose.
Overall this was an absolutely fun dystopian that made me want to grab a paper book*** and go read it outside in the sunshine. The romance was a bit heavy handed but I don't think a teenager would think so. I did wish I knew more what Justin DID. Everyone in the resistance keeps talking about how important Justin is to the resistance and oh mah geeze he's risking himself for some girl this will bring the whole resistance down tragedy tragedy tragedy! But what did he do for the resistance that was so special?
I very much appreciated that this book didn't try to say that technology is evil. The resistance lives a simpler life but not a completely lacking in computers/cars/lights/running water sort of life. I appreciate that! BUT! I do wish that dystopians would quit saying that in the future we're going to get all our food in convenient perfectly balanced nutritional pills/bars/crap. People absolutely love food and I don't think that we're going to let the government take that away from us any time soon. (Seriously - first they came for the pies and I didn't care because pie is evil. Then they came for the cakes and I STARTED A GOSH DARN REVOLUTION!)
Feminism quotient****: I got annoyed in the beginning because every dystopian ever***** has a girl enmeshed in the dystopia and then some enlightened man comes and enlightens her. Seriously - think about it. Have you ever read one with an enmeshed male and a female comes and enlightens him? Half a point for 1984 where Winston and Julia enlighten each other. As I read Awaken, though, her rebellion years earlier took on larger meaning. Justin was recruiting Maddie to the cause, yes, but her rebellion years ago had made her a hero to Justin and she had inspired him. Awaken is fairly heteronomative but in a book where you only get to see the inner life of two people I mostly forgive it. Overall I give it two feminist thumbs up.
***I love digital books. I am not one who thinks that ebooks are heralding the end of paper books or lamenting what was - but Awaken did give me a feeling of nostalgia for paper books and seeing my neighbors! So reading in the park it was.
****Yes, this is a new thing. FEMINISM QUOTIENT. Hush. I'm trying to get more critical because I tend to just like all things at all times.
Check out Anna's much more nuanced review for a less enthusiastic opinion.