Seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd has the entire house to herself while her parents are on a six-week cruise. Kiri expects to have a tame but Serious summer spent Focusing on Her Art. She has a rigorous practice schedule for her piano repertoire for the Student Showcase. She has important things to discuss with her bandmate Lukas as they prepare for Battle of the Bands (like all of the reasons they can be Serious about the music AND date!).
Kiri’s quiet and Serious summer is completely derailed with one phone call.
Kiri expects retrieving her sister Sukey’s things will be simple. How can it be anything else? But nothing involving her older sister is simple. As Kiri retrieves her possessions and learns more about Sukey and her past, Kiri’s carefully constructed world starts to fall apart in ways that are as devastating as they are beautiful in Wild Awake (2013) by Hilary T. Smith.
Wild Awake is Smith’s first novel. She was also previously the anonymous publishing blogger INTERN. You can find out more about Hilary T. Smith and INTERN’s advice on her website.
Wild Awake is simultaneously effervescent and heart-wrenching as Kiri struggles to make sense of her lingering grief and her own life in relation to it and her family. Filled with twists and turns, Smith weaves an exciting and surprising story about a girl trying to find her way without even realizing she was lost.
While the story is lovely and ultimately quite satisfying, there is a lot of drinking and casual drug use as Kiri works through her conflicted feelings about Sukey and her life. This is apparent from the first page and it makes sense in the story even if it might not make sense for some readers. Because of that and the fact that Kiri reads (in some ways) as older than seventeen, this is definitely a book that skews older with potential for adult crossover (rather than younger with middle grade crossover potential).
Smith’s writing is luminous; Kiri is a heroine who burns brightly with wit and surprising insights. At the same time, the book is erratic and frightening as it shines a light on the dark places in Kiri’s own psyche and her family’s troubled history. Much like Kiri herself Wild Awake ricochets between moments of beauty and ugliness to create a book filled with excellent prose and memorable characters.
Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach, The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour, When We Collided by Emery Lord, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez, I am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff