Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky (4 Stars)

Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: May 23, 2011
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Format: Hardcover , 320pp
  • Sales Rank: 487,719
  • Age Range: Young Adult

Awaken takes us to a place that is very likely. Everything is digital. There is digital school (mandated, with no drop-outs allowed), digital work, digital dating, even digital dancing. There is no teenage pregnancy, crime is virtually eliminated, and people rarely come out of their homes. Maddie, the protagonist of the story, is the daughter of the inventor of DS (digital school). She has had some trouble in the past, so she is on probation in her home. She is rarely allowed out, except to go to soccer practice. Her dad does not trust her, but her mom wants her to experience some of the old life. Maddie seems unhappy, but she doesn’t really do anything other than chat through her flip screen anyways. What is she missing out on? Everything is normal and hooked in, until she agrees to meet someone in a real life study group. She is uncomfortable with the idea, but agrees to go. This simple choice changes everything. When Maddie meets this boy, her clean, locked up world is not good enough for her anymore. It’s time for Maddie to remember what human interaction is really like.

I usually enjoy dystopian novels, so I was looking forward to reading this immediately. Even though it is set in 2060, I feel like it could be just around the corner. The book doesn’t focus on a perfect governmental structure like most dystopians do. It doesn’t give people the exact amount of food they need, the right kinds of clothing, etc. It is still our type of government. DS seems like any major corporation that has just been allowed to be a monopoly. My high school students are already attached to their technology. When was the last time anyone saw a teenager without an ear bud in their ears, or a phone in their hand? I think one of my students would start crying if I made her let go of her phone. Their entire lives are being controlled through these devices, and they feel like they are more connected to people than ever. This book really touched me because it is pointing out the dangers of living like this. I can’t Kacvinsky enough for pointing this out. Why take everything real out of life?

The only reason I gave this a four instead of a five is because it took me awhile to read it. I was able to put the book down between chapters. There were definite stopping points where I felt like I could close the book and think of something else. Excellent books don’t let you do that. I’m not even sure how to change the novel to make it more gripping. There are definitely chapters that make me want to read more right then and there, but that’s not how the whole book is. Perhaps, more action in the in-between chapters could have helped me, or maybe stepping outside of Maddie and learning what is happening in other parts of the world could have pulled me in deeper. All in all, I would highly recommend this to my high school students. There is very little bad language, and only some (very descriptive) kissing scenes, so it is relatively tame compared to a lot of young adult literature. I just think more people need to read this to focus on the message of not allowing our digital lives to take over everything worthwhile.

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