Natasha Preston’s AWAKE doesn’t quite live up to its clever concept.
It’s every young writer’s dream: Natasha Preston’s WattPad novels were so beloved that her books have been picked up by a publisher. Her thriller duology, The Cellar, has quite the following and the emotional, romantic Silence series has also earned plenty of praise on the net. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite catch that magic in her latest novel, Awake.
Let’s start by saying that Awake has a fantastically eerie concept. Scarlett can’t remember anything before the age of four. For some reason, her family isn’t too keen on her regaining those memories. The puzzle slowly comes together when a new boy named Noah comes to town. Noah is a bit out of touch but certainly charming. He’s also, unbeknownst to Scarlett, a member of the Eternal Light cult, sent to gain her trust and lure her back to her real home. Because the members of Eternal Light believe that Scarlett is the light they seek and will save them all… in her death.
Great premise, right? However, the execution falls fairly flat. Scarlett not only trusts Noah instantly, she’s swooning over him within an hour of meeting him. In the next chapter, the two already have a relationship. While we see them out on a few dates and the clear jealousy of Scarlett’s (awful) best friend, we miss out on many of the adorable moments in which their relationship develops. For there on, the plot goes in a fairly predictable direction that may please some fans, but unfortunately doesn’t offer up many variables from the average YA novel in terms of plot twists. It all comes to a head when Scarlett finds herself in the grasp of the cult, but naturally, Noah is having some second thoughts.
A good editor may have also been handy in this case. There are a few errors here and there, as well as the novel’s pesky habit of occasionally identifying Scarlett as 15, even though her being 16 is a major plot point.
Preston’s best choice in creating the world was the use of dual perspectives. Scarlett and Noah peel back the backstory in a satisfying way. Scarlett doesn’t realize she’s falling into danger, but Noah and the audience know all along, so watching it unfold felt suspenseful at times. It also gave us a better understanding of the beliefs with which Noah was raised and how his decisions are impacted by his family. It makes us wish that the finer details of Eternal Light and their rituals are explained a little more thoroughly.
Preston’s concept has a spark to offer, but fails to ignite a fire in readers’ hearts with the execution. It gets better as it goes along but never reaches a point where we felt truly invested in the characters or plot. Hopefully, some readers will still find some likable elements within, but this one just didn’t work for us.
Awake is on sale now.