Wild Awake: review

Wild Awake: reviewWild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
Published by Harper Collins on May 28, 2013
Genres: contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads


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 Suki’s stuff—her sister Suki, 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 WallflowerWild Awake explores loss, love, and what it means to be alive.

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith does what should be impossible: be at once completely batshit crazy and unbelievable, while also painting a pretty accurate portrait of the modern teenager.

Kiri Byrd’s parents left her by herself for six weeks while they went on a cruise around the world, but she has a plan: she will water the plants, and check the mail. She will practice piano religiously and be perfect at her Showcase performance. She and her best friend Lucas will practice every day and win Battle of the Bands and then he will realize he’s in love with her.

Of course, things don’t exactly go to plan, since that would be a pretty boring book. Kiri gets a call from a random stranger, saying he has her sister’s things and if she doesn’t come pick them up, he’ll throw them away. Her sister. The only one who ever truly understood her. Her sister who’s been dead for five years. Kiri knows it’s a bad idea, but she can’t stop obsessing about what things the strange guy might have.

What she finds sends her spiraling into a reckless kind of mania that is as destructive as it is freeing. While she begins to uncover the secrets her family has kept from her, and grieve for her sister anew, she  discovers herself in the process.

Her seriously insane, but ultimately really cool self.

Wild Awake was an absolutely hypnotizing read. From an objective point of view, few things about it are at all realistic, and Kiri is kind of an idiot who makes spectacularly poor decisions, but somehow it all made for a fascinating read.

I found Hilary T. Smith’s treatment of mental illness, and her depiction of the descent into mania very realistic, but I do wish she’d glorified it a bit less, or given more weight to the talk of treatment in the book’s conclusion. As is, it paints Kiri’s behavior as a summer lark, or a period of self discovery rather than serious issues that need to be dealt with.

But all in all, Wild Awake‘s descent into madness was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

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