Publication Date: May 2011
Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.
Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—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. (from Goodreads)
Dystopian stories are all over the place these days. I for one couldn't be happier. As far as dystopian tales go, Awaken was a pretty good one but at the same time, I had a few issues with it's world.
The youth of Awaken don't attend brick and mortar schools. Everything has done digital. And it's not just the kids, daily day to day life has progressed to the point where less and less people interact with each other face to face. It's actually a pretty believable future. Digital is cheaper and in the case of Awaken, it could be safer.
The issues I had with Awaken have to do with the rules that govern it's society. All schools are digital and most communication is done over computers. Our protagonist Maddie is under a sort of house arrest. She caused some trouble for her father who is the head of the very powerful company that started Digital School. So, there is a second layer of isolation for her. She doesn't have face to face friends and she doesn't get outside much but it seems like she could if she wanted to? It wasn't really clear and in fact she does spend a large amount of time outside her house with really little to no consequences so I was confused.
In one of these out of the house experiences, Maddie meets this guy Justin, who's only interest in her is her connections. Her father is powerful and Maddie could be helpful to Justin's cause. What is his cause? Well, at times if felt like borderline terrorism. His people are fighting Digital School - they feel it's dangerous for people to have no real interaction with each other. They rescue people who have broken the law and 'save them' and help them get off the grid so to speak and live a real life.
Ok..but...well...the problem, for me, was that this digital world didn't actually feel very dangerous. People still could, and did meet in person. There are coffee shops and live music and Maddie herself plays soccer and there is no government saying you can't do that or we'll arrest you. A lot of people don't want to interact face to face and in this society they really don't have to. If very much felt like a choice. Maddie hasn't really had much exposure to 'real' life but she's a special case. Most people it seemed had a choice.
So Digital School is bad and I never really found out why exactly. But people are fighting against it. And Maddie could be the key to it all if she betrays her father again and helps destroy all that is digital but I was never really sure what it was that she could do other then steal from her father. And really, couldn't anyone figure out how to do that? And Justin, this guy, who only wants her for what she could do for his 'cause'? Of course they fall for each other but for me, It was way to unrealistic to be enjoyable.
As dystopian stories go, I would not rank Awaken among the top. As romance stories go, Awaken is way down on the list of my favorites - or rather, it doesn’t really make the list. Another take on the 'what if's' of our present society but without the believability or the actual danger everyone seems so afraid of. I would be hard pressed to recommend Awaken to fans of dystopian YA but as always, I encourage you to make your own decision.
2.5 / 5 Stars
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt