Thursday, July 21, 2011

Awaken Book Review *Katie Kacvinsky*

Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky is a softer Dystopian YA that has an underlying message of how technology, such as the internet, is making us live more like hermits, where we’ve become wary of that face to face interactions that are still needed. This is a sweet and uplifting tale about an insecure girl and the outgoing, rebel like boy who shows her just by her leaving her house, she can find joy in something as simple as a sunset or feeling the grass underneath her feet.

Maddie lives in a world run on technology in the year 2060. Computers and the internet are very much a way of life for society where one can makes friends all over the world, go to virtual movies and even date. Children are home schooled and taught on computers, mainly because of the school violence and bombings that occurred when Maddie was a small child. Paper is rarely used to write on and electronic tablets are preferred. Maddie’s father is the director of Digital School, Inc and has become more like Maddie's prison guard ever since she got in trouble two and a half years ago. She inadvertently tried to take down the digital school and almost got her father arrested. Maddie’s father still can’t trust her and he monitors all her online moves. She’s trying her best to show her father she’s now a model citizen, but he still can’t get past her betrayal.

Through an online chat room, Maddie meets Justin. He wants her to meet her and invites her to come to a live tutor session. Maddie goes, although she’s uncomfortable because she’s more at ease behind a computer, where she can pretend to be anybody. Justin is unlike anybody she has met. Not only does Justin have this larger than life presence, but he’s an old school thinker and doer. He likes to use pen and paper to jot down notes and isn’t a big fan of virtual technology. He wants Maddie to get out more and meet his friends. What Maddie doesn’t know is that Justin has a bigger plan for her.

Maddie soon becomes involved in the group Justin is a part of. They want people to go back to the way things once were, such as kids going to actual school and interacting the old fashion way by going to cafes, restaurants and clubs. Maddie starts to straddle both worlds. She enjoys the anonymity the virtual world has to offer, but Justin excites her with his ideals and his reasoning. She’s even falling in love with him. But Justin’s cause threatens to tear apart their new relationship. Justin must spread the word and he can’t have Maddie giving up her entire life to run away with him. And then Maddie is caught breaking the law where her father finds a way to separate her from Justin and punish her again for her rebellious actions. Justin won’t let her take the fall and comes to her rescue, which leads Maddie to embracing a new way of life that doesn’t include her sitting in front of a monitor or keeping some hand held electronic device attached to her hip.

Awaken has many messages. This isn’t a doom and gloom downfall of civilization tale, but a way to remind the reader that the digital age can ostracize those who rely on it too much. Katie makes a great case on how balance is important. Balance your internet time by taking a few hours to go outside and take a walk. Or go the beach or sit in a park and feed some ducks. I really connected with the way Justin and Katie’s mother are portrayed. Maddie’s mother agrees with many things Justin is promoting, but warns Maddie to be careful since her father would like to squash her new found attitude. But her father isn’t a villain. He cares for Maddie but thinks he knows best because a part of him lives in fear that his daughter may get hurt from outside forces he can’t control.

Justin and Maddie’s romance is more on the tender side and one readers will enjoy. Justin is honest and forthright and that what attracts Maddie to him. The loves scenes between these two are nicely written and have a nice YA tone to it. Awaken was a home run for me. It’s the type of book that makes you really think about where we will be in the next few decades as technology continues to take over and becomes more important to the way we live our lives.

While I was reading, the lyrics to the song “Sunshine Day” popped into my head:

I think i'll go for a walk outside now
the summer sun's callin my name
i just can't stay inside all day
i gotta get out get me some of those rays
everybody's smilin
sunshine day

A happy go lucky song for a book like Awaken that brings to light why we all should take a walk outside and commune with nature when we have the chance. (Houghton Mifflin)

Final Grade: B+

A few other Awaken reviews:
Anna Reads
Fantastic Book Review
There's a Book



orannia said...

Interestingly, I could so see this happening! But I definitely like the idea of going out and about :)