Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

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Book: Awaken
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Release date: May 23, 2011 – TODAY!
Source: NetGalley ARC

Summary: (from Goodreads) Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether itâ??s to go to school or on a date, people donâ??t venture out of their home. Thereâ??s really no need. For the most part, Maddieâ??s okay with the solitary, digital lifeâ??until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People arenâ??t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside herâ??a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

First impressions: BANG! Did you hear that? That was me racing through the front half of this book. Cannot. Put. Down. Even. To. Eat. Feeding myself was far less of a concern than finding out what was going to happen next.

Lasting impressions: I am in love with Justin. He is my official book boyfriend until further notice. The love story here is so sweet and real and satisfying. Even if I did sometimes want to punch Justin in the face.

Conflicting impressions: Seriously Justin? You put work over personal happiness? Your seemingly well-meaning chivalrous attempts to protect Maddie don’t make any sense. You either want her on your side or you don’t.

Overall impressions: Okay, so maybe Justin and I are in a time-out. He can be so irritating!

See, Maddie is not the innocent I first assumed her to be. This is part of what I loved about this book. She’s a bit of a rebel, and is on probation for hacking into her uber-powerful dad’s computer and helping the resistance movement try to take down Digital School. After a rash of violent incidents years ago, Maddie’s dad developed an online educational system that has quickly spread to almost all facets of life. It’s like the internet on steroids, where people rarely leave their homes because everything can be done online.

Kind of cool. Kind of scary.

Justin is one of the folks that thinks this is more scary than cool. He wants to bring people out of their homes, offline, and back into open society. He reaches out to Maddie, and she soon realizes that he’s trying to recruit her. She’s not sure whether or not to tread back into Bad Girl territory, but Justin is quite the temptation. Her unraveling relationship with her super strict dad only pushes her harder into Justin’s arms.

This is mostly a love story, after all, despite the dystopian (ish) setting. Digital School had its drawbacks, but it wasn’t all terrible. In fact, it was kind of mostly awesome, especially for people like me who prefer to avoid awkward social interactions. Sure it’s also a cautionary tale about the internet taking over our lives/world, but at heart this is really about Maddie coming to terms with her own views on society’s direction, and how her feelings for Justin influence that viewpoint.

So why is Justin so irritating? Well, he has this hang-up about his little underground rebellion. He works to recruit people to his cause, and this takes him on the road for long periods of time with little to no reliable means of communication. Despite Maddie’s strengths and abilities, he continually insists that she’s too valuable to be out in the field, so OBVIOUSLY they can’t be together.


I’m so sick of the “we must protect the fragile female” perspective! For once I’d like to see the dude go “SICK! You’re beautiful and smart and capable of man-handling the organization we’re fighting with one hand tied behind your back – and you WANT to help? Let’s go take them down and be super happy love partners in crime together!”

But no. That never happens. Instead they just whine about how much they want to be with the girl, but do The Right Thing and protect them by quarantining them somewhere away from the action until the manly men types save the world for them. BARF.

I forgave Justin, though, because he’s so darn cute. And even though Maddie didn’t step up as much or as often as I would have liked, she reminded me so much of myself that I forgave her too. They’re just too awesome! Maddie is brilliant, funny, shy, and a bit of an adventure-seeker. I so related to her willingness to go with the flow and get caught up in the wild capers that start to come her way, not wanting to turn down the opportunity to just live a little and maybe meet some cool people. You never know when you’ll meet that person who changes your life, in either a good or bad way, and sometimes you just have to walk on the edge of good and bad until your choice reaches its consequence.

Bottom line? Loved, loved, loved this book, but the end and the Justin-isms were enough to knock it down a star. If you’re in the mood for a great love story in a futuristic setting, definitely pick this one up. Immediately.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

8 thoughts on “Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

  1. Justin… irritating! That is putting it lightly. The boy frustrated the heck out of me. GrrrrI'd like to see the same thing instead of all the false 'fighting off the feelings because that is what is best'. So much energy is wasted with that hoopla! Yanno?

  2. I've wanted to read this book forever. And I have to agree with you on the boy-protects-girl thing. DRIVES ME NUTS. It should totally be the other way around…hehe. Also, I wanted to say sorry for not commeneting as much! I've been super busy. But that doesn't mean I was reading your lovely posts, especially the interviews. Love those.

  3. Dear Logan, Please do not promulgate the idea that women are a) strong b) intelligent, or c) capable of looking after themselves. This is a disturbing falsehood that should by no means be passed on others, children in particular. Thank you, Ruby

  4. @Missie – I know! It feels like this scenario keeps popping up to keep tension in the story, but there are lots of obstacles we can throw out without the book "putting women in their place." @BookGeek – You should read it right now! I'll wait… And don't worry, I've been slacking on commenting as well. Until school's over, my appearances are going to be pretty spotty!@Ruby – You just made my week.

  5. I SO AGREE with the 'protect the fragile female' crap. GAH! Like fingernails on a chalkboard. :)I thought some of the concepts in this book were fabulous, but I just didn't buy the world-building or the connections digital school had with the rest of the world. Plus, the technology was all wrong (drawbacks of my math/computer sci degree). So I didn't get much of any enjoyment out of this story because I kept saying 'that doesn't make any sense' or 'that's just WAY too convenient.' I was really bummed out by that, because I was looking forward to this book.

  6. Wow, you get all your feelings out in your reviews! I love it!!!TI like the whole concept of the online school. Hmm, Justin seems really back and forth and that really irks me. This book looks great though, and you still gave it such a good rating despite how annoying Justin seems. Can't wait to read this one, and thanks for the review!

  7. Maddie should have been all like "*Snap* I'm a She-Wolf of Siena. Justin, I've GOT THIS!"Oh, wait, wrong book. Gabi has totally ruined me for weaker female MCs. Have you read Cascade yet???? I have to admit, as far as dystopians go, the idea of a world where we all get to avoid awkward social contact sounds almost like paradise.

  8. Pingback: Logan E. Turner

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