Review & Giveaway: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Wild AwakeWild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books on May 28, 2013
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 400
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on AmazonBook Details

In Wild Awake, Hilary T. Smith's exhilarating and heart-wrenching YA debut novel, seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd has big plans for her summer without parents. She intends to devote herself to her music and win the Battle of the Bands with her bandmate and best friend, Lukas. Perhaps then, in the excitement of victory, he will finally realize she's the girl of his dreams.

But a phone call from a stranger shatters Kiri's plans. He says he has her sister Sukey's stuff—her sister Sukey, who died five years ago. This call throws Kiri into a spiral of chaos that opens old wounds and new mysteries.

Like If I Stay and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Wild Awake explores loss, love, and what it means to be alive.

I am so completely confused by Wild Awake. I read it, and I swear nothing happened. If you were to ask me to describe the plot of this book or the major conflict, I would have no idea what to tell you. Because there isn’t really any overarching story or obstacle. It’s basically about “a day in the life of a girl on weed” for an entire summer, and that amounts to a lot of randomness, weirdness, stream of consciousness, and plot points that are all over the place.

Wild Awake actually started out okay. Kiri realizes that her sister Sukey didn’t die the way she thought she did. Instead of dying in a car crash like Kiri thought, Sukey was murdered. And I thought, “Oohh this is the start of a cool mystery” But that was basically the end of it. We just learn that one little new bit of information, and for some reason, it makes Kiri go insane. And yes, I guess it’s sad and disturbing, but it literally makes Kiri go insane. Like smoking weed all the time, taking random drugs, being totally and completely psycho, becoming an insomniac… and that’s just the beginning. I don’t want to be a bitch, but I just kept thinking, “Grow up and get over it!!” It happened five years ago. I understand freaking out when she died, but now.. five years later? Just because it wasn’t the way you thought? UGH!

And, God. Kiri. Was. So. Annoying. First, I should mention that I’m not into drugs or drinking or any of that. So it wasn’t much fun for me to read a book about an insane girl (I think she’s 16-ish) who smokes weed about a million times throughout the course of the book, accepts mysterious pills from strangers, and steals alcohol. And the way she acted just made her seem so stupid and immature. For example, just stupid things like this:

“You got hit by a car and you didn’t tell me?”
I swing my legs off his lap and sit up. “Whatever, homey. The Way is an invincible fortress.”

First of all, “The Way is an invincible fortress”?? Doesn’t she just sound high? She probably was. But also, she got hit by a car and just brushed it off. She was laying in the street bleeding and doesn’t think this is a big deal?

“You really should wear a helmet,” he says, and I pat his big warm hand. “Oh, Bicycle Boy,” I say. “Most things in life feel better when you don’t have a chunk of Styrofoam strapped to your head.”

So, after she gets hit by the car while riding her bike, her boyfriend tries to encourage her to wear a helmet. But nope. Apparently she’s too cool for that. Seriously? And while we’re talking about “Bicycle Boy”, let’s discuss the romance.

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith - Not wild about it

The romance in this book (if you can call it that) came out of nowhere. There was no chemistry, no build up, no sexual tension.. just two strangers meeting, then suddenly they’re making out, and that officially makes them “a couple”. Are you confused? Because I sure was. This “Bicycle Boy” guy (whose name I can’t even remember) was really flat, boring, and underdeveloped. I guess it could be because he was more of a shy, closed off person, compared to Kiri’s wild, insane, all-over-the-place attitude.. but still. If I don’t love the couple, I can’t buy into the romance.

As the story went on, I couldn’t even figure out if the romance was supposed to be a significant part of the story or not. This brings us back to the “no overarching plot/conflict” point. Was the romance the side story? Because the lack of development would suggest so. But then what was the main story? It couldn’t have been about Sukey because that was so left, right, and all over the place. Was it about smoking weed? Maybe. Kiri definitely did that a lot. Was it about the music? I guess it could be… but I don’t even know. Because that was also all over the place. The only constant was Kiri’s ever-growing insanity. But for me, it wasn’t even an interesting or fascinating insanity that I could ‘enjoy’. It was annoying, erratic, and didn’t even get resolved. Kiri literally spirals downward and I thought there was going to be some epic resolution, but it never came.

I didn’t know much about this book before starting it, but it still disappointed me. I thought this was going to be emotionally gripping, mysterious, and thrilling. But it was really just about a bratty, crazy, reckless, troubled teen who spirals downwards and turns into a pot-head insomniac. And in my eyes, that’s not really a story. When the book ended, I literally thought, “What? That’s it? That’s the book?” It’s more of a crazy stream of consciousness than anything else. It’s like a journal of a crazy girl’s drug-induced, sleep-deprived summer vacation.

I almost submitted this review, but then I read the quote on the cover again:

“This absorbing debut explores the most profound mystery of all: love.”
GAYLE FORMAN, New York Times bestselling author of If I Stay and Just One Day

You know it’s bad when you have no idea what that quote is even referring to. What is the love that is explored in this book?

Is it the love between sisters?
No, because we never actually see Kiri and Sukey’s relationship. We don’t see it first hand, but Kiri does recap a few memories.. but when I saw those, I just saw a naïve girl romanticizing her drunk, druggie, prostituting, artistic sister. I mean, sure, they loved each other. But if this was supposed to be the focus of the book, there wasn’t enough tying it all together, especially at the end. It just dropped off in such random places.

Is it romantic love?
No, because Bicycle Boy and Kiri aren’t in love. They claim they are, but honestly, they’re not. There was no falling in love phase for them. And throughout the entire book, we practically never even see them talk. There are no cute moments or sweet little happy bits. It’s just Kiri telling the book, “We did that, that, that, and then that. And then I went home.” The quote from above where he says, “You really should wear a helmet,” is actually one of his longer lines in the book.

Is it love between parents and daughter?
No, because Kiri hates her parents. I honestly didn’t think they were bad. Apparently Sukey hated them and now I get the impression that Kiri hates them. But why? They’re not in the book that much, but from the glimpses I got, I didn’t think they were bad. Maybe they weren’t the most attentive parents, but they didn’t ignore Kiri and they weren’t abusive. They weren’t the best parents in the world, but they weren’t worth moving out of the house over.

Is it love between friends?
No, because after Kiri’s thing with Lukas ends, Kiri doesn’t have any friends.

The point I’m trying to make, is that I just have no idea what this book was about. Obviously some people do like it, so maybe it just wasn’t for me. I couldn’t relate to Kiri at all, and that’s always a major problem. But if you are able to relate to her, then maybe you’ll be able to enjoy the book a lot more. And if you’re okay with someone smoking a shit-ton of weed, then that will help too.

But not everyone agrees with me

Wild Awake is definitely one of those books that you will click with and love, or be completely disconnected from and thus dislike. So I would encourage you to check out some of these other reviews!


And here is your chance to find out if Wild Awake is the book for you or not! I’m giving away an ARC of Wild Awake to one winner. This giveaway is open to United States residents only (sorry, but my bank account is still hurting from the epic international blogoversary giveaways).

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The Verdict


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  1. And that is why I always take author recommendations on the cover with a grain of salt. I see nothing here that entices me to read this! Nice review though, you really explained why it didn’t work for you.

    Trish Hannon recently posted: The Sunday Post, Issue 7
  2. Wow, that’s sad. I hate “the day in the life of” books. And this sounds like the perfect example. It’s like, What’s the point?? A book needs to have a point for it to be readable and enjoyable. Sorry it sucked, girl. Better luck next time.

    Jennifer Bielman recently posted: Kindle & Nook Freebies #39
    1. Yeah, me too. I need some kind of nice, big, overarching plot point or conflict. If it’s all just “This is what I did today” every single day, then I don’t want any part of it!

  3. This is very cool. Not that you didn’t like the book, but the fact that you point out how not everyone agrees with you and show the other reviews. 1 – one star review won’t kill a book if other people read it and liked it. 🙂

    Lori L. Clark recently posted: Gabriel's Inferno Giveaway!
  4. I’m sorry you didn’t like Wild Awake! But– and I know this is weird– your negative review actually makes me want to read it for myself, so I’m entering the contest, haha!

    Going on what you wrote, this kinda reminds me of Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks (1995). Troubled teen, lots of drugs and risky behavior, weird romance stuff. I first read it when I was in high school and I didn’t really get it– then I reread it years later and had a more positive reaction to it. I wonder how I’ll like Wild Awake?

    Anastasia @ Here There Be Books recently posted: How to confidently talk to people at conventions and whatever
    1. Haha I’m glad my review makes you want to read it! And just because I didn’t like the book doesn’t mean you won’t. A few people have loved it and you might be one of them!

  5. It’s like a journal of a crazy girl’s drug-induced, sleep-deprived summer vacation.

    I just love this line – from everything else you wrote, it sounds like it sums up Wild Awake completely! It sucks that this one didn’t work for you, but I’m still interested in seeing if I connect with Kiri (and then hopefully enjoying the book!)

    Kelly recently posted: Keeping Up With the Blogosphere
  6. Aha! I’m SO happy to read this review (but, uh, NOT happy that you didn’t like the book, because that’s never fun). Painted this way, the protagonist sounds annoying and definitely confusing, like you said. And I loved how you pulled out the author blurb about “love” and tried to figure out what she was talking about. Really great run-down of the book and why it didn’t work for you, Ashley!

    Renae @ Respiring Thoughts recently posted: Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

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