Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance Publication.Date August 4th 2015 Pages: 352 Published By: Sourcebook Fire Author Natasha Preston Awake on Goodreads My review copy: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Scarlett doesn’t remember anything before the age of five. 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.
"I could smell her berry shampoo; it was as confusing as it was comforting."
Oh, what a flop.
Having read and loved Natasha Preston's The Cellar, I was ridiculously excited for her new book. And to say I was disappointed, would probably be a bit of an understatement. This book is a mess. Preston does disturbing and creepy very well, unfortunately the moment she throws romance into the mix it all goes to hell. I wasn't bothered by the romance in The Cellar at all, because it was such a minor element of the plot line, it pretty much faded into the background. In Awake, the romance plays a much bigger role and that's where the problems start. Unfortunately, they don't end there..
Teenage Scarlett doesn't remember anything before the age of 5, and apparently that is completely shocking. So much that, when people hear about this tragic fact, they are either amazed or horrified.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think not having memories from very early childhood isn't anything extraordinary. Or is it? Because my earliest memories are actually from around the age of 5-6. I have maybe a handful of memories that seem to be earlier, but I can't say with 100% certainty if they are my own memories, or if it's something my parents told me about something we did, etc. And even if some people do have those early memories, I don't think they're vivid and clear.
Anyway, back to the plot line. Scarlett was told by her parents that when she was 5, there was a fire and she suffered from a head trauma that resulted in her amnesia. She accepts this explanation and lives a happy life, at least until Noah shows up and starts asking uncomfortable questions and pushing her to remember. Then another head trauma caused by a car crash causes her to start remembering things from her early past. And the memories that start coming back to her reveal a disturbing past that does not match her parents' tales at all.
It seems to me that Preston had a pretty decent idea for a thrilling and disturbing plot line, but it all got lost somewhere along the way. The plot was very messy and filled with gaping holes. If you take a moment to consider the plot line, you'll see just how criminally implausible it is. Scarlett's real parents are the leaders of a dangerous cult and apparently Scarlett, as their daughter, was going to be sacrificed (stabbed in the heart, that is) in some sort of a freakish ceremony. She was rescued and adopted by another family, where she had a real shot at a normal life. And that is all perfectly believable, but the moment the author introduces Noah (the single most disturbing and creepy character I have ever met), and we are told that the cult leader devised this brilliantly evil plan of luring Scarlett back to the compound by making her fall in love with this weird-ass teenager, my bullshit sensors started flashing red. I just don't believe this would ever happen this way. If she was tracked down and kidnapped, drugged, jumped on the street, dragged into a white van or even simply told about her real past, I would have believed it (maybe). But to lure her in by making her fall in love with some teenage kid? It didn't make any sense. Moreover, it felt rather silly and unnecessarily dramatic.
Not to mention the whole romance was a disaster. A ridiculous case of insta-love that had no real basis other than physical attraction to the new guy at school. They went from "hi, I'm Noah" to "let's plan our future together" in the span of maybe 10 pages. I'm not joking, folks. It really was that crazy. Now, religious cults are creepy, but teenage insta-love and stalking tendencies a'la Edward Cullen, are creepier still.
I'm sad, because this story could have been much better, but the ridiculous plot developments, unrealistically portrayed situations and reactions, creepy characters and bland writing dragged it to the bottom of the deepest ocean. I really hate to be saying this, because Natasha Preston is a talented writer and an awesome person, but I feel like this book should be taken behind the barn. It's the merciful thing to do.