Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

8 Oct

Series: Awaken, book #1

Published: May 23rd 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Books

Details: Hardcover, 320 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Set in a dystopian world, not too far away, where people spend most of their time in front of a computer screen, Maddie meets the charismatic Justin who wants to change the world. I thought this book had an intriguing concept, and the writing was really good. The romance was steamy, all though not very memorable. Overall enjoyable but not great.



Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.


My thoughts:

Only a few chapters in, I knew that Awaken shared similarities with many other dystopias I’ve read lately, who have put too much focus on a romance, and much too little into an actual plot and a believable world-building.

The signs were there, namely:

  1. Romance with a mysterious Boy – an outcast who wants to change the current world they live in: Check!
  2. Upon meeting the Boy, the Girl who thought she was content with said world, starts to awaken: Check!
  3. Girl and Boy cannot be together in this world because of “insert controlling rule of the Society”: Check!
  4. World-building has an intriguing concept but is not fully realized, i.e. plenty of holes: Check!

Yet, despite including all the points above, Awaken still surprised me by being a fairly entertaining read!

First off, I liked following the thoughts of Maddie, the heroine. She seemed relatable to me, with plenty of insecurities, but also a risk-taker, smart and witty.

Secondly, the writing was easy to get immersed in. And it was filled with all these thought-provoking quotes I constantly felt the need to scribble down, for instance:

“Thoughts are circular, they don’t take you anywhere. They don’t have feet-they can’t gain any ground. They can trap you if you don’t eventually stand up and make a move.”


“You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance. It took me a long time to accept that, but it’s true. You need to have patience.””

I was also enjoying the attraction that was slowly building between Maddie and Justin. That said, I had a few issues with Justin. He had that tortured “My life is too dangerous for you/You’re too good for me” thing going on which as you know, is something I’m getting increasingly tired of.

Maddie was also, at times, too obsessed for her own good with Justin, when for instance, she should have been paying attention to other pressing matters, such as an impending escape or her family situation. She usually acknowledged this obsession though, which made me forgive her behaviour. After all, being young and experiencing your first love can make you slightly obsessed.

The world-building was intriguing, seeing as we are really not that far from it today. Aren’t we already talking more through computer screens than face-to-face? But I wished Kacvinsky would have explored the idea further. As it was now, there were too many question marks and inconsistencies to make it truly believable. For instance, it’s said to be dead on the streets, since no people need to commute anymore. But what about all those professions that cannot be done online, such as plumbers, electricians etc. Surely not everyone could stay at home?

It’s also not very clear why the national education system Digital School feels threatened by face-to-face interactions. Nor if those type of meetings are illegal or just very uncommon. I wished this had been made clearer.

The ending felt rushed and contrived, as if an action scene was needed for the climax and something had to be thought up quickly. Thankfully though, no cliff-hanger in sight!

A sequel called Middle Ground is to be released sometime in 2012.

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