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Awaken

Awaken - Katie Kacvinsky My SynopsisThe years is 2060. Due to severe violence and bombings of schools, digital life has become the norm and people do not venture outside to socialize. Instead, life is lived via computers. You can go on a coffee date, attend a study group, go dancing, participate in a book club, go on a chatwalk, stay fit with group exercise - you name it. Digital school is the only option for children to get an education, as face-to-face schools no longer exist because of the threat of violence. When attending classes, you actually have a holograph image of your classmates and teacher in front of you. This life sounds cool, right? Wrong. The technological advances in this world are not used to enhance life, but instead used to control it. You can do nothing without leaving a trace, forever being followed by digital spies.Maddie, our brave, likable, young heroine, seemingly enjoys virtual life. Her father is the creator of Digital School, and because of this, Maddie's life is as strict as digital life can be. It doesn't help that Maddie has some treacherous behavior on her record and her father deems her untrustworthy, but I will leave that for you to uncover. In walks Justin, a digital contact that has been urging Maddie to attend a physical study group for weeks. Although face-to-face meetings are abnormal in this day and age, she finally caves. On the way to the study group, the reader discovers a flying bird tattoo on the inside of Maddie's wrist. This bird undoubtedly represents her need to be free, and you are now presented with the idea that Maddie may not be content with being trapped inside a digital world. As you can easily guess, meeting Justin changes her life in a major way.My ThoughtsAwaken surprised me. It brings a very interesting and possible future to our attention, and I think about it often because so many of us lead very digital lives. Not only is it fun, easy, comfortable and accessible, but it allows the socially awkward people of the world to be someone they wish they could be in real life. It allows for anonymity, for everyone to be equal. And, you are pretty safe sitting behind your computer screen. Aside from the cool technological advances, Maddie's world isn't much different from ours, and I fear our society is headed in the direction of this story. It is quite eerie, actually. When is the last time you picked up the phone to actually speak to someone rather than text them? When is the last time you called or visited your neighbor/friend/family member rather than emailed them? I will be the first to admit that I do these things, but I think youth of today are experiencing this more severely. Technology has many amazing uses, but it is also very detrimental to socialization, which is a much needed piece of being human.I loved Justin's character, but not at first. He definitely had to prove himself to me. He was extremely dedicated to his cause, and while I admired him for his strength and determination to seek change, he was a bit of a hypocrite. He was quite resistant to welcoming love and affection into his own life, all the while preaching the importance of intimacy and connection to the world. Personally, I think it was a defense mechanism. I think Justin’s inexplicable draw to Maddie freaked him out for a few understandable reasons. Regardless, Justin definitely grew on me. I can't imagine someone so selfless, and boy, does it make him smexy! (Plus, he has dimples. Score!) I love how he challenges Maddie's perception of life, and especially love his determination to change society. We need more people like him in real life to stand up for what they believe in, speak out and make changes, instead of bitching and moaning on the sidelines. As a social worker, this is the most annoying thing a person could do. If you don’t agree with something, then ACT! You don’t have to be all vigilante crazy, but write a damn letter or make a phone call. I really enjoyed the romantic tension between Justin and Maddie, and especially enjoyed experiencing Justin's attempt to fight his feelings for her. Justin teaches Maddie how to use her senses, since people encased in a digital world never have the chance to explore life this way. That exercise led to an intimate scene between the two, and I thought it was beautifully written.Maddie's mom wasn't a major character, but she really grabbed my attention. Over the years, she has kept hard copies of books, and preserves them behind glass so the pages don't yellow and wither. Be still, my heart! She also reviewed the books when she was younger, and now passes along her favorites to Maddie. :)Regarding Maddie's parents, I was quite amazed at their relationship. Her dad was so intent on keeping life in the digital realm, while it was obvious her mother yearned to return to paper and pen. Very interesting dynamic.There were so many great quotes that I can't share because I read an ARC. Some of them expressed the prison-like existence of a digital life, others expressed the spirit and free will of people. Some where spoken or felt between Maddie and Justin. Great stuff. I was a tad disappointed in the ending of the book. Not because it was bad but because I wished for a different ending. However, it did not detract from my love for this book. I also have some questions, such as: How do they expect people to find mates and procreate if they're stuck in a virtual world 24/7? I mean, you meet tons of people all over the world but you never venture out to physically meet them. Doesn't seem like a good equation for making babies, right? Regardless, if you couldn’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Awaken and look forward to more!