I wasn’t too sure about this book when I saw it listed on NetGalley, but it’s NetGalley and free, so I said what the heck and requested it. When I finally decided to read it, I didn’t know what to expect, honestly. A sort of futuristic world similar to Surrogates where no one goes outside and are always “plugged in” was my initial thought. What I found, though, was a story more complex and thought-provoking than what the summary suggests.
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.
First off, people do go outside in this world. Just wanted to clear the air before diving in deeper. But they do carry around tablets with their entire lives on them, which people rarely look up from when outside. Nothing is written down anymore – it’s all on computers. And there’s plastic paper, which just blew my mind.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Awaken is set in 2060. The world is similar to ours, but technology is more intertwined with people than it is now. (Hard to imagine, right?) The reasoning behind the isolation of people is explained and it’s a very plausible explanation. I would not be surprised if our world or nation goes down a similar path in my lifetime.
Madeline, or Maddie, is the narrator of Awaken. She seemed like a normal girl… until she meets Justin. Then we learn she isn’t that normal. But then, neither is Justin.
Maddie and Justin’s interactions are what ultimately made this book so good, for me anyway. Justin had a very Doctor Who-isc vibe to him, which I loved. (If you don’t watch or know what Doctor Who is, you should immediately rent it or stream it on Netflix. Seriously, stop reading this review and watch it. Right now.) Maddie was a treat as well. She was a strong girl who knew what she was capable of and what she wanted. And them together? Very good. Excellent, even.
Digital School, which is mandatory, online and free, plays a big part in the overall story arc. Maddie and Justin have their own thoughts in regards to Digital School and I’m very interested to see how their different roles play out in the next book.
Like I said, this book is thought-provoking. If you’re like me when it comes to computer usage, you’ll find yourself questioning the amount of time you spend on Tumblr or Twitter or whatever else sucks away hours of your time. Not that I’m giving up on either because really, how else would I get my fill of Alexander Skarsgard if not for Tumblr? But I’m very aware of how much time I spend on my computer compared to how much I spend interacting with people, and this book is part of the reason why I’ve cut back on the weekends and actually *gasp* gone outside! So, thank you, Katie Kacvinsky, for that.
Overall, this is a book that surprised me and left me wanting more. If you like tech-focused dystopians, I urge you to try Awaken.