Harmony Ink Press
July 14, 2016
Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The first thing to draw me to this book was the cover. I mean look at it. It’s gorgeous. It’s like being in a dream. Not mine, but someone’s.
The second thing was seeing the word “asexual” in the description. While not ace myself, I have many friends who have been awesome enough to teach me about this oft-misunderstood sexual identity. This was also the second young adult novel I’d seen in as many months that featured a main character who eventually comes to identify as asexual, which means more people are learning about asexuality from different standpoints and perspectives. And there seem to be more coming!
We get dropped into We Awaken as if into a dream. With only a few lines about our surroundings, we are immediately drawn into the weirdness. We know two things about Victoria from the start: her father has died and her brother is in a coma; and she is a dedicated dancer, complete with her own personal basement ballet studio. With that information, we follow her into dreamland, where she meets a beautiful woman with a message from her brother. This dream itself is an anomaly, as she has been having nightmares since the accident that killed her father and put the aforementioned brother in the aforementioned coma. Over the course of several dream encounters, we discover that this beautiful woman, Ashlinn creates happy dreams, pulling from the good memories of those minds she visits and spinning them into something lovely for the night. Ashlinn, conveniently, is also the first of the pair, who have grown close in these dreams, to come out as asexual. Victoria, after doing some research, realizes she probably is too.
Act two of the novel involves Ashlinn entering the real world out of necessity—once again convenient and surprisingly easy for an ethereal being. Here is where we get to experience the cuteness of a pair of girls, one white and one black, confident in their romantic inclinations, and comfortable with their differing needs. This part of the book almost feels like a regular contemporary romance, but then the real world of this particular universe comes crashing down, and the Girl Of Victoria’s Dreams realizes that leaving the dream world was a Really Bad Idea.
The universe that Lynne has created is interesting, but leaves me with questions: If Ashlinn is the only one who creates good dreams, does she project into billions of heads at once? While she’s hanging out and flirting with Victoria in New Jersey, is she also hanging out with someone in Georgia and someone in Illinois and someone in Brazil and more and more people as night falls? How many of these people does she make friends with? Or is she like, the local shop steward for good dreams? Why is she only a teenager? Was she “born” into this existence, or is it her afterlife?
Why didn’t someone in editing catch the fact that Victoria calls a song from Singing in the Rain—apparently one of her favorite movies—”If You” instead of “Would You”?
I will never get these answers.
Overall, We Awaken is cute. Victoria, with her unhealthy relationship with cars and driving; the ever earnest and beautiful Ashlinn; and Victoria’s BFF Ellie, the foul-mouthed, oversharer with a heart of gold, are a fun trio to spend a few hours with. If you can indeed be whelmed, this book is that. It isn’t spectacular, but it isn’t a mediocre novel, especially once the story gets going. It’s a perfectly good novel with a few extraordinary circumstances.