From the publisher:
Scarlett doesn’t remember anything before the age of four. Her parents say it’s from the trauma of seeing her house burn down, and she accepts the life they’ve created for her without question—until a car accident causes Scarlett to start remembering pieces of an unfamiliar past.
When a new guy moves into town, Scarlett feels an instant spark. But Noah knows the truth of Scarlett’s past, and he’s determined to shield her from it…because Scarlett grew up in a cult called Eternal Light, controlled by her biological parents.
And they want her back.
Scarlett’s biological parents and their effulgent cult may indeed want her back, but I, for one, would be happy to never hear of her again. To put things simply, Awake was a a bad idea and waste of time. The writing is amateur; the plot is worst. Suspense kept it in motion until the halfway mark, at which point everything went downhill (as in, down the rabbit hole and into the territory of complete lunacy.) The storyline is problematic and dubitable; the peripeteia are painful and contrived. There is no question that the novel falls flat (as in, reading this book is the spiritual equivalent of falling flat on your face and suffering a particularly nasty ensuing traumatic brain injury.) In other words: avoid at all costs.
The characters are uncannily automatous and altogether displeasing. Scarlett and Imogen are best friends– Scarlett shames Imogen; Imogen undermines Scarlett. Scarlett and Noah have only just met– Scarlett is smitten with Noah; Noah is planning their future. For a novel rife with outcries against GMOs and profound support of organic food items, Awake certainly contains copious amounts of unnatural additives: the classic new boy at school, the fated chemistry partner pairing, the inescapable and tangible attraction, etcetera, etcetera. The romance alone probably contains enough aspartame to power a small Diet Coke factory for several years. (Every cloud, they say, has a silver lining.)
Unfortunately, the novel’s ending condones this unorthodox romance– as if, because Noah has ultimately redeemed himself, the preface of their love becomes unimpeachable. No one mentions that Scarlett drove herself into an unhealthy position, that she made poor choices, fooled by pretty words and spruce profiles. No one mentions that she abandoned her friends for a comely boy, isolating herself from the remainder of her social life. No one mentions that their relationship hit a sizeable volume of red flags before cartwheeling into cult-inspired gibberish. To all young readers of Awake: this is not okay, and whatever you do, do not let Preston delude you into believing that it will somehow lead to a happy ending.
In a dazzling display of dynamic authorial skill, Awake works itself slowly but surely from a hesitant, vacillating thriller to a zealous, overwrought romance to a sheer, twenty-four carat fantasy over the course of its 314 pages. Based on preconceived notions of madmen and cults, this novel will have you questioning the constraints of reality (as well as the author’s credibility) in no time. One can safely assume that it was built on a plethora of misconceptions and zero research. Yes, dear readers, this is a thriller that tests the limits– the limits of my straining patience; the limits of widely accepted scientific knowledge; and the limits of one’s imagination, striving to envision a dubious plot in a disjointed reality.
Evidently, I was viciously tempted to lay down arms, throw in the towel, drop Awake like a hot potato– scrawl Did Not Finish on its abortive gravestone and wash my hands of it, end of story, Rest in peace. Nevertheless, against all reason I plowed forward doggedly, my soul consumed by an omnipotent kind of morbid curiosity, a sickened fascination, utterly determined to authenticate the eventual veracity of my sinking suspicions. Needless to say my theories were corroborated, leading to clashing feelings of sharp disappointment and winded relief. Indeed, I would say that the ending was predictable had I not been so bafflingly unsure that any one person could so effectively string together such a laboured series of clichés in one physical space. Say what you will about Preston, but in any case she boggles the mind.
All things considered, Natasha Preston’s latest will indeed keep you awake, be it with late-night binge-reading or bloodcurdling nightmares about late-night binge-reading. In the end, who’s to say? 0.4/5 stars.
I’ll keep you posted,