Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith.

16065521375 pages

Published May 28th 2013 by Katherine Tegen Books

Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.

I’m afraid that this was a case of blurb misinterpretation for me. I had expected this to be a sort of bittersweet mystery with a romance woven throughout. Nowhere in the blurb does it say mystery – I totally assumed because the premise seemed reminiscent of The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan, and also of an idea for a story that’s been swimming around in my mind for a while. I should have focused more on another ‘m’ word in the blurb – madness. I was completely taken by surprise with Wild Awake.

I’ve always loved the missing and/or dead big sister premise. The way you idealise them and then realise that maybe they weren’t the person you thought they were – this is something that Kiri Byrd goes through. Her big sister, Sukey, died five years ago. Her parents told Kiri that it was a car accident, but in reality she was murdered.

Sukey had a vibe straight out of an earlier era, kind of like a hippie. She was a free spirit and an artist who left home to make it on her own when she was still a teenager. Of course, Kiri loved Sukey, and thought that she was amazing.

Kiri is off beat, smart and talented. She likes to really live, to the point where she is almost self-destructive. While her parents are away, she is finally free to be/discover her true self, rather than just be the post-Sukey parent-pleaser the she became five years earlier. She’s pretty crazy, and more like her sister than any knows.

There are no mistakes, I realise – just detours whose significance only become clear when you when you see the whole picture at once. 

While there is technically a love story in here, it’s not what I would call a romance. If I were you, I wouldn’t go in expecting any swoonish or cute moments. Or even, I daresay, the kind of leading man that you might fantasise about. This isn’t that book. It’s pretty heavy, actually.

For the last hundred pages or so, I had a lump in my throat the entire time. I felt almost distressed. Wild Awake took another path that I wasn’t expecting. It got quite intense. I felt the need to sit and think for a while when I finished it.

Hilary T. Smith is definitely a talented author that I want to keep my eye on. I can’t wait to see what she writes next. I think that this is a very good young adult novel.

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