Sunday, April 3, 2011

Those That Wake, By Jesse Karp- Review

Kindly sent to me by the folks at Houghton Mifflin, Those That Wake was a book I had yet to hear about, which is always fun. I like the clean slate, no expectation reads.  It's promoted as a YA Science Fiction novel, but I'd have to say it seemed more dystopian to me, and one of those odd YA/Adult hybrids that doesn't have a YA feel to it, but has YA characters.

Sign one I had troubles with this book-I'm so flummoxed by this story I can't even give my usual personal abbreviated blurb about it. So for the first time ever I'm falling back on a Goodreads summary:

New York City’s spirit has been crushed. People walk the streets with their heads down, withdrawing from one another and into the cold comfort of technology. Teenagers Mal and Laura have grown up in this reality. They’ve never met. Seemingly, they never will.

But on the same day Mal learns his brother has disappeared, Laura discovers her parents have forgotten her. Both begin a search for their families that leads them to the same truth: someone or something has wiped the teens from the memories of every person they have ever known. Thrown together, Mal and Laura must find common ground as they attempt to reclaim their pasts.
I have to admit, I wanted to play favorites when this arrived in the mail and bump it to the top of my list.  I'm pretty picky about reading things in the order they're given to me when it comes to ARC's, and stack them according to arrival on my TBR shelf.  But it sounded super fantastic and a bit scary/dystopian, and I was excited to dig in, so it was hard to sit on it while I caught up on a few other things.

When it was time to pick Those That Wake up, I was thrilled when the first part of the book did not disappoint. I was intrigued and interested in both Mal and Laura (the YA characters), and I was eager for the story revelations to start.  But then out of nowhere, two new adult characters popped into the mix and the story took a sudden and unexpected turn into way left paranormal/scifi field.  I'm not joking, they literally left the story and were plunked into some other dimension.

The good news is they did emerge, and Jesse Karp did send them on their way back into the story.  The bad news is he'd lost my interest, and confused me with his odd segue, and after that point I didn't enjoy the story as much anymore.  It was almost as if he'd attempted to become more philosophical about their circumstances but instead of working it into the story as a whole, it started a third of the way in.  Whatever he was trying to achieve it ended up being lost on me, and I walked away from the ending feeling a bit mystified by the story as a whole, and just generally confused.  Sort of the way I felt about the big reveal in the final Matrix movie, remember the white room scene with all the TVs and Colonel Sanders explain stuff to Neo?  Yeah, that was the feeling I was left with, the "WHAT??" feeling. 

I did really like some of his dystopian elements though.  I especially found the reliability on technology and how it was wiping out basic human contact  hit on issues I think society is really heading towards today.  And while stopping in a little local coffee shop yesterday, I was forcefully reminded of his Starbucks scene when I looked around and realised the reason the coffee shop was so quiet was there wasn't a single table with more than one person and a laptop at it.  In a full coffee shop.  Not one table of friends chatting over coffee.  Now that's creepy, maybe even more because it's getting so stereotypical.

I largely assume there was a greater, deeper, meaning to the book that was lost on me, and a general search of reviews for this book brings up a big mixed bag of folks who seemed as lost as I was, and others who found it creepy and profound.  Check it out and let me know what you think, because if nothing else a book like this makes for great discussion.

Those That Wake, By Jesse Karp
Published by Houghton Mifflin, March 2011
Buy Those That Wake on Amazon