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Wild Awake is a wonderfully weird debut novel from Hilary T. Smith. It’s a creative mishmash of grief, love, art, drugs and mental illness that is strangely compelling. This story stands out in the YA landscape takes you on an unforgettable journey.
Kiri Bird is home alone for six weeks while her parents are on a cruise. She’s a responsible girl and has a list of things to accomplish, including preparing for a piano recital, and winning Battle of the Bands with her crush/ bandmate Lucas. But one phone call changes everything. A stranger calls and says he has Kiri’s sister’s stuff to be picked up. Kiri’s beloved sister Sukey has been dead for 5 years, and reopening her sister’s world brings new insight into her death and sends Kiri over the edge.
Once Kiri ventures to Sukey’s former home and into her world, it’s like a switch is flipped. Kiri becomes a brand new manic person, who is a whirl of creative energy. It’s quite jarring to experience, but awesome at the same time. Kiri’s voice is vivid and real and makes the reader feel the madness.
Kiri’s partner in crime is new friend Skunk, aka Bicycle Boy. Skunk calls Kiri Crazy Girl, and these two together push each other to the brink. The pair doesn’t have a typical romance and you’re not sure if they are good together but at the same time you can’t help but root for them. I wanted to re-title the book The Adventures of Crazy Girl and Bicycle Boy.
I listened to the audiobook, read by Shannon McManus (Lola and the Boy Next Door). McManus was the perfect conductor for Kiri’s crazy train, and illustrated her descent into madness. I could not stop listening to this audiobook to see how it would turn out. All the voices were spot on and the pacing matched the tone of the story. I’d recommend listening to this one to get the full effect of the character’s mental state. Kudos, Shannon McManus!
This book is not your typical YA contemporary and I love Hilary T. Smith’s creative voice. There is so much chaotic energy in the writing that is so different from anything else out there. I think a lot of YA’s will respond to this book and appreciate this unusual whirlwind of a story.
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