Review: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Wild Awake
Title: Wild Awake
Author: Hilary T. Smith
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date of Publication: May 28, 2013

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.

Purchase from Amazon | The Book Depository


My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thank you so much to Katherine Tegen Books and Edelweiss for the eARC! This in no way affected my opinions of the novel.

Wild Awake first came into my radar because of it's GORGEOUS cover. Because seriously, that cover made me salivate. All the elements came around together seamlessly and I give mad props to its cover designer, Tom Forget. Those were handmade splatters, guys. Plus, the color. I am absolutely not a fan of orange but this made me love orange. If you want to read an interview of Tom Forget by Hilary, go HERE!

So aside from the cover, the blurb just got me so intrigued and interested. You're home alone and then there's a mysterious call about your dead sister. Plus the format itself of the blurb just makes you want to read it. So I requested Wild Awake over at Edelweiss and when I got approved, yippee! I wasn't supposed to read this at the time I read this (with my reading schedule and all) but insomnia called and I randomly started reading Wild Awake. Needless to say, I finished it the next day. (Yes, I still sleep. At times.)

The novel started hilariously. I found Kiri's voice funny and a voice I loved reading. She was easy to relate to with her massive crush on Lukas and her constant daydreaming. However, Kiri's voice changed during the course of the novel. Once she slowly uncovered the unbeknownst details of the life and death of her sister, Kiri changed. Some might consider it a downward spiral but I don't completely agree. I'd say it was an unhealthy spiral. But giving way to this change were Kiri's beautiful thoughts and I'd say that's a good deal. Still, I missed the Kiri at the start but at least, her character grew. In fact, Kiri underwent a massive character development.

Skunk, though not your typical male love interest and totally not your usual YA hero, was a hero all on his own. He had his own issues and back story and his imminent growth as a character had depth and was so worth reading. He's sweet in his own ways, cool beyond cool and definitely a unique character. I loved how Kiri and Skunk made each other grow and how they accepted each other as they are. They made the other also infinitely cooler if that's even possible.

Wild Awake wasn't the novel I expected it would be and for that, I think I got a little bit confused. I went in thinking this would be a contemporary coming-of-age novel with a little mystery and yes, it is that but it was so much more. Maybe that's why I had a hard time rating this one. I initially thought of giving it four stars because it's good but then, as I always say, I'm an emotional reader and Wild Awake ended up not a perfect fit with my reading tastes. I didn't feel cheated, I just didn't think that there would be no structured plot. I thought there would be more mystery but in reality, Wild Awake focused on how Kiri dealt with the information she learned after that ominous phone call.

Still, I haven't read a novel like this one. Beautifully written but in a prose some people might not like. Reading it is like reading straight out of an artist's mind, and the one who's manic about his/her art. Kiri is not a character who's easy to understand and to relate to but I found myself unable to stop reading. I wasn't too invested in her and the story but it was like I was hypnotized by the novel. Tons of quotable lines but there isn't a structured plot. There's an event and it chronicles everything that happens in the aftermath, with a resolution befitting of an indie film. It's dramatic and not. I know that's ironic but yes, this novel feels like an irony. A good one at that. I don't know how I really feel about it because I'm not tuned in with the characters but I admit its writing is exquisite. Not Delirium-like but gorgeous on its own. I will quote some here in my review.
"Maybe we all need ships to hold our dreams, to be bigger and steadier than we ever could be, and to guard the mystery when we cannot, to keep it safe even when we have lost everything."
“It's amazing how quickly the things you thought would make you happy seem small once you stumble on something true.” 
“Did you see that guy in the back, from the radio station?’

His smile is a jar full of fireflies.

‘Crazy Girl,’ he says.
‘All I saw was you.”
“People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn't know were there, even the ones they wouldn't have thought to call beautiful themselves.” 
See? So good. I especially love the last quote I featured. There are tons more of gorgeous prose in here but I wasn't able to note them. I suggest you go read it yourself and you will find gems.

This will appeal to those who enjoy slice-of-life novels. It's real. It deals with murder, family, drugs, sex, friendship, music, art and meshes it into a tale of Kiri learning about her sister's murder and her eventual dealing with it. She meets people along the way and realizes that her life as she knew it flew out the window the moment she learned the truth about her sister.

This novel is free-spirited, which I think lies mostly on Hilary Smith being one as well. Like the Tao, which is mentioned and used a lot of times here, this novel flows. To quote the Tao:

"Words may be used to speak of it, but they cannot contain it. "

And oh, why yes, I know The Way.

About Hilary T. Smith


  1. Great review! I loved this book. I listened to it on audio and the narrator just rocked it.

    1. I still have to try listening to an audiobook. Thank you for your kind words, Jenn! Thanks for dropping by! :D


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