Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: Wake [2008]

On my way out of town for vacation with no audiobooks in the car, I cruised though the Young Adult department at my library and picked up the audio version of Wake, by Lisa McMann.

Janie Hannagan can't avoid being sucked into other people's dreams. It's especially problematic in study hall after lunch, where she is witness to an endless cycle of "naked in front of class" nightmares and sexual fantasies. Janie lives with her alcoholic mother and works as much as possible at a local nursing home, hoping to make enough money to go to college and escape. Cabel Strumheller is a seemingly slacker student who lives near Janie and generally keeps to himself, although Janie has established a tentative friendship with him. When an overnight class trip exposes Janie's secret to Cabe, their burgeoning romantic relationship takes a serious hit. Rumors swirl that Cabe has become a drug dealer even as Janie starts to gain control over her abilities, leading her into a situation she never could have predicted.

Grade: B-

Wake was an interesting "what-if" exercise for one kind of paranormal power, but I'm not sure I'll keep reading the series. The explanation for Cabe's strange behavior [SPOILER] is that he's working for the police to bust a local dealer, which was fairly unbelievable. I know, I was perfectly content to believe that someone might see other people's dreams, but I apparently draw the line at the idea of high school students going undercover. I can't tell from this story, for example, whether they used actual high school students to help with the bust. There's also this fascinating story from twenty years ago--and maybe that's the problem, as a plot device it feels a little weak and dated. Apparently there are academic articles about this stuff. ANYWAY TANGENT OVER.

In addition, I'm not sure what my problem is, but I don't like having to deal with "experimental" tenses when I read. Wake is written in a diary-like format with a third-person present tense that conveys an immediacy ("Janie shakes her head to clear it.") that consistently throws me out of the story. The only time I've ever liked a book that attempted something similar, it was the audio version of The Knife of Never Letting Go. The narrator was competent, if stilted, coming across as very young. All that aside, I would categorize this as a good young adult suspense, and give it to a patron who was looking for something scary but not gory.

Dead Mother: No
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