Wild Awake | Hilary T. Smith | Book Review

When all of your twitter friends are reading and discussing the same book, the pressure to read it kind of becomes expotential, especially when they are reading an early copy and you find that you also have that same book in your posession. Y’all, I read Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith because I WANTED TO FIT IN WITH MY TWITTER FRIENDS. Thankfully, this was the good sort of peer pressure, and not the type that gets you arrested. I ended up mostly pleased with Wild Awake, a book that has one of the strongest voices I have read in a long time. Now, not everyone is going to fall head over heels for this book, as I think there’s a certain demographic that will love it and one that just won’t dig it. Personally, I liked Smith’s debut but have a few reservations.

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith | Good Books And Good Wine

After smoking weed in her best friend Lukas’s basement, Kiri heads to her parent-less home where she receives a mysterious phone call from an older man asking her to pick up her sister Suki’s things from the dangerous part of the city. As Kiri’s parents are on a cruise, she decides, hey why not. And so, putting herself at considerable risk, she goes to get deceased Suki’s things and thus unleashes a chain of events that will uncover the true circumstances about Suki’s death. OH OH and there is a boy too, who is decidedly not Lukas. And a lot of music and piano playing. And really, that’s Wild Awake in a super nut shell. Obviously more things go on and happen but you totally should go into without spoilers.Like I went in only knowing that my friends were flipping the frick out and OMG-ing all over the place.

I wouldn’t say that Kiri is the sort of strong, kick ass heroine that I love. HOWEVER, I liked her for the most part. She is quite determined and stubborn. She has a huge heart, as evidenced by her treatment of Doug, a junkie who basically lives in the really bad part of town (he knew Suki). I think that Kiri is the sort of teenager who definitely does not have her shit together and that’s perfectly fine. Not every teen does. And well, Kiri is dealing with absentee parents who seem to want her to be the perfect kid to make up for how much of a problem Suki was. Kiri is also pretty manic — like she doesn’t sleep, she thinks she can play piano in her head, she is quite trusting of strangers. Oh and she definitely smokes a lot of j’s in Wild Awake. She’s DEFINITELY realistic,gritty, raw and true, ya know? And yes, those are the absolute most cliche words ever to describe a contemporary, but I honestly think in this case, it applies.

Kiri has a love interest. Which to be 100% honest didn’t entirely make me swoon. Yet, if you’re a fan of those books where two totally fucked up people fall in love, I think you’ll like this. Personally, there were some things that her love interest did that were dealbreakers to me. And no, he’s not a bad boy or the abusive sort AT all, just for ME and me alone, I was like eh, I could take you or leave you after that. However, there were some pretty sweet moments, and okay I won’t lie a kissing scene where I definitely underlined the page.

I think that Wild Awake is it’s strongest in it’s voice. It’s not like anything I’ve read in a long time. The book is written in first person and yeah, getting inside Kiri’s head is kind of a trip. I’ll be honest, I thought a lot of it was weird — but in this case, I was fine with the weird. This is because the weird blended into utterly gorgeous prose that made me want to dog ear pages. As I was reading I kept thinking there’s a certain wild cadence to this book and I love that, love it so, so much. And ya know? Wild Awake is the sort of read where if you want a contemporary that isn’t cookie cutter, but a bit literary and kind of like beat poetry, you’ll like the writing style.

In all, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith is an impressive debut. There were parts where I questioned Kiri’s life choices, but then I was like — hey I remember being a teenager and also making awful choices and sat back and let the book unfold. Kiri is an interesting heroine, and Wild Awake, a compelling story. I’d wholeheartedly recommend this to people who are fans of the off-beat and who don’t get all bent out of shape when a character doesn’t do what you want them to do. Seriously, this is a great book and utterly enjoyable.

Disclosure: Received for review

Other reviews of Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith:

Chick Loves Lit – “WILD AWAKE gives me more reason to shout about contemporary YA from the mountaintops

The Perpetual Page Turner – “her energy just pulses through you and holds you captive.”

Real Men Read YA – “will go bat-shit crazy with the “I don’t read much” teenage crowd

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I’ve been hearing SUCH good things about this one! I think vivid is a word I associate with this book so I’m glad it has such a strong voice. I really liked that you said Kiri has a big heart because that’s what I like in characters. It’s a shame the boy wasn’t swoon-worthy though. Overall, it sounds like a really solid debut and one I’m definitely looking forward to.

    • Yes! Vivid is exactly the perfect word for Wild Awake. For me, I also LOVE characters who have big hearts and you know are open and vulnerable, I think you’ll like Kiri. Yeah, I didn’t quite swoon for Skunk, but I know a few people did. I think you’ll love Wild Awake when you read it.

  2. You’ve got to love book bullies! They’re the only kind I like — and I really like when they guilt me into reading a completely awesome book! I saw this cover and (as a cover ho does) marked it TBR but now I really want to read it even more. Woot!

  3. Yo, this is one of those rare cases when we disagree. I DID NOT LIKE THIS BOOK.

    I hated Kiri and her personality. Bleh. I mean, she smokes weed and makes bad decisions because she is a teenager – that I am cool with. But everything was just so bizarre and disjointed and WITHOUT ANY POINT. I mean, was she supposed to learn a lesson? Completely crash and burn? I didn’t get it.

    As for Skunk – we can definitely agree on his lack of swoon. I mean, his name was pretty much the sexiest thing about him and his name is SKUNK. Enough said.

    Sigh, I read this to fit in with my Twitter friends as well, but I definitely feel like the odd man out this time because everyone else seems to love it and I pretty much just think of it as the worst book I’ve read so far in 2013.

    • It is SUPER rare when we disagree. But you know, in this case I get it.

      Kiri can definitely come off as blahhhh and a bit of a loser, but I don’t knowI just thought she felt kind of raw.

      Yeah, it’s hard to swoon over a paranoid dude named Skunk.

      At least we both bowed to peer pressure. I am sure the next one you read will be much better. <3

  4. Someone told me about this book last month and I’ve been meaning to try to get it from Harper so thanks for the reminder. It definitely sounds interesting, I don’t really know what I think about the cover though, but I still definitely want to read it.

    • Good luck, I hope you do get it because it is very, very good.
      I am so glad that I am not the only one who doesn’t entirely love the cover. Honestly, when I saw it, I thought it was a paranormal book, ha ha.

  5. I love that this is the “right kind of weird”. I can get behind that! And 1st person narration always draws me in. It’s like falling down the rabbit hole.

    • There is ‘weird’ and then there’s weird. Like, I just need good weird not the sort of weird where it feels like the book is a mouth breather.

      YES! I love first person narration too. Good comparison on the rabbit hole.

  6. I have this one on my nook right now. I’m going into it pretty much the same way you did, where I don’t really know what it’s about but everyone seems to love it. I’m most excited for the unique voice. I love when I feel like I really get to know a character for who they are and what sets them apart from others.

    • That’s the best way to go in, not knowing quite what it’s about. I have to say, the writing and the voicing is the best, it’s very, very unique and excellent. And yeah, someone used the word vivid and I have to agree.

  7. Ooh! It’s not often that I hear that a book’s big strength is it’s narrative voice. That’s definitely intriguing. Like you, I basically only want to read this because all my (our?) Twitter friends are freaking out about Wild Awake. I want to be in the club, too! And based on how you’ve described this, April, it looks like I may like this, which is great to hear.

    • Really, that’s the best part, I mean, I loved a lot of it, but the voice really stood out to me. I think we have a lot of twitter friends in common. Dude, you can totally be in the club — READ IT. I hope you do like it when you get to it.

  8. YES. You know all my thoughts on this one but I’m so glad you enjoyed it too! Seems like we have issues with some of the same things though. As much as I LOVED it, I felt it so necessary to have that disclaimer that this book is SO not going to be everybody’s cup of tea AT ALL. And I can honestly understand it. On the outside and from the description it looks like you are going to get something akin to like The Summer I Turned Pretty, Twenty Boy Summer (love both) or something…it’s just not at all like that.

  9. All this peer pressure is making me what to move this to the top of my pile. I think I will! 🙂

  10. Dude, I super don’t know about this one. I was so excited and everyone I know is LOVING it, and I usually agree with you guys, BUT I’ve heard it’s like a trip from more than just you. I am having flashbacks to my class on counterculture and having to read shit like Naked Lunch, Tropic of Cancer, and Fear and Loathing. They are so not my thing, and if this reads like that than I totally cannot handle it. Have you read those? Is it like that? Or is it less drug-soaked and incomprehensible?

  11. I’m very curious about this one! It does sound a bit offbeat, but that’s not always necessarily a bad thing. I feel like THINGS happen in this book, and that’s intriguing because I don’t know what kind of things they are.