Krista Reviews: Katie Kacvinsky—"Awaken"

Description from book:

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.

Maddie is living a very comfortable life. She has plenty of friends, she always has something to keep herself busy and does not want for anything. The only catch is that her life is lived on the computer; her “friends” know her only by screen names and video chatting is as close as she gets to seeing other people. The year is 2060 and  the toll that violence has taken on the schools and society in general has driven everybody inside.

Maddie’s father is the one who has developed the whole curriculum for Digital School. He is a very strict, revered and wealthy man. Her mother, on the other hand, clings to more classical ideas of life and friendship and tries to instil in Maddie the knowledge of what it means to actually meet new people.

One day, a study buddy unexpectedly invites Maddie to meet him IRL (In Real Life); and, after overcoming some anxiety, she decides to just do it. That decision and her introduction to Justin takes Maddie on an adventure into a whole new world.

Looking at the cover, you would never expect to find such an amazingly fast-paced, subtly dystopian novel. The novel features futuristic cars and technology; they are very intriguing, and it is exciting to think about them as possibilities for our own future. The romance and interaction between Maddie and Justin was actually a very nice change from the other books I have read recently. We actually see a girl that is very nervous about how to even approach the subject. It’s painfully obvious that her  lack of real dating experience and interaction with other people is emotionally stressful and confusing.

On the other hand, Justin really has a bigger plan that has been put into action upon their meeting, and his selfless actions and decisions are for the greater good. There is something much bigger than the two of them happening, but they are the key to getting it to work. His bigger plan is what leads to some very frustrating and irksome scenes between the two romantically.

In today’s world, where our lives our spent on computers, tablets, and smartphones, this book spoke to me on a personal level. It is very similar to what I imagine the world my grandchildren will be living in, in the near and believable future.

I suppose the cover represents the idea that you cannot keep life contained. A flower inside a jar cannot grow or live for very long without the nurture of nature.

Awaken is one of my favorite reads of the year, very captivating, emotionally frustrating and eye opening.

Awaken—Katie Kacvinsky
Hardcover 320 Pages
Published May 23, 2011 — Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
ISBN 0547371489 (ISBN13: 9780547371481)

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