The year is 2060. Maddie has been going about her life, doing and experiencing everything on screens — chats, school, study groups, even exercise — until she meets Justin in a study chat room. He invites her to come to a face to face study group, and gradually Maddie begins to question her lifestyle that has practically eliminated face to face interactions.
Her father is the head of DS (Digital School) and advocates this lifestyle of staying inside and online where people can be tracked, monitored, and protected from bodily harm, whereas her mother clings to some of the old ways and introduces them to Maddie as well, by giving her a journal, with real paper and in which she has to use old-fashioned longhand to record her thoughts.
Dystopian literature, showing a society in the future that has taken a turn for the worse, is very popular in YA literature now. I’m usually amazed at the creative details and imagination that the authors come up with. That was definitely true in Kate Kacvinsky’s Awaken, but because I have read a lot of dystopian literature, it didn’t seem wholly original. The ideas of rebellion against a status quo and technology taking over routine life are common in the genre, but where I do think that Awaken stands out is by causing us to take a look at our own digital lives. How much of our interactions are online instead of person to person? How much does that palm sized screen in our hand detract from real experiences while we are having them?
I liked this book, but for the reasons listed above, I didn’t LOVE it. However, it was a big hit with my daughter (the target audience). She gives more of her take in our 2nd mother-daughter video review. I was surprised at the parallel she made to The Iron King, but it sort of made sense when I thought about it. That’s a series she really likes, so if it reminds her of that book, it’s a pretty big hit.
CONTENT NOTE: YA covers such a wide range, so as a mom, I always appreciate knowing about content. This novel has some profanity (not a lot, but some), and one scene of heavy kissing. My 7th grade daughter read it and enjoyed it (before I actually finished it myself), but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for anyone younger than her age.
I think that high schoolers in particular will relate to the themes of diverging from your parents in beliefs, figuring out your future, and learning to think for yourself.
Jennifer Donovan absolutely adores sharing a good book with her daughter. She shares her amazement of seeing her grow up before her very eyes at her blog Snapshot.