Review: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Wild Awake
Hilary T. Smith
Series: None
Release Date: May 28th, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Number of Pages: 400
Rating: 5 stars
Word Rating: Stunning

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Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.
Wild Awake is not a book that will appeal to every reader. While I found it to be wonderfully strange and hauntingly beautiful, with a gorgeous and euphoric atmosphere developed with undertones of grief, sorrow, and unmistakable depth--all of which bears the same gorgeous and breathtaking ambience as the blatant euphoric facade the main character, Kiri, is living--there is no doubt in my mind that the opinions for this novel, as fantastic as I think it is, will be rather polarizing due to some of the novel's somewhat controversial content.

Drug use, predominately if not entirely weed, plays a significant role throughout Wild Awake, but more notably it plays a significant role in Kiri's recovery after finding out that her sister had really been murdered, after believing for years that she was instead killed in a car accident. Whether or not Wild Awake will be a book you love or a book you hate is based, in my opinion, on how drastically you react to drug use in novels, to the point where said drug use may become excessive. I, for one, found Kiri's use of drugs throughout Wild Awake to be an original and refreshing perspective on dealing and coping with new and life-changing information, and seeing the world through Kiri's eyes as she was in a high was similar to being in an absolutely stunning trance I didn't for the life of me want to escape from.

Hilary T. Smith's writing style is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and immersing I have ever come across in young adult, and is an absolute perfect example of how purple prose should be written--sufficient enough that it makes the reader stop and admire the gorgeous quality of the prose, yet not too much of it such that it is almost overwhelming and makes the reader feel the need to stop and take a break. The prose in Wild Awake is crazy and chaotic and it's utterly and undeniably spellbinding--in other words it's alive, and it manages to capture the essence of Kiri and her state of outright derangement so masterfully, believably, and beautifully, and it leaves you stopping to inevitably sympathize and deeply care for Kiri and what she's going through throughout the duration of Wild Awake, even if you may not like her as a character or grasp the rash and perhaps foolish decisions she may make.

Dealing with stunningly portrayed grief, secrets, and how just one of them could practically shatter your entire world, touching family bonds (and even lack thereof in some cases), and an unexpected romance that is as lively as each sentence deftly written on every page of this novel, with an often hysterical, witty, and insightful inner-monologue within the head of Kiri, Wild Awake is a crazy, passionate, and profound rollercoaster ride, and it's one which I would gladly ride again.


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