For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie's seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.
She can't tell anybody about what she does they'd never believe her, or worse, they'd think she's a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn't want and can’t control.
Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant.
Like most in the YA community, I'd heard of Lisa McMann and Wake and even about the rumored movie based on the book that may possibly star Miley Cyrus. I thought the premise of Wake was interesting, and after seeing some other recent readers tweet about loving the novel, I decided to finally give it a shot. So was Wake a dream come true?
Not for me.
After reading Wake, I've seen reviews that talk about the choppy sentence structure and unusual way it was written. I listened to the novel on audiobook, and to me, the writing didn't come across as choppy. I don't think it would have bothered me had I read the physical book. My problem wasn't with the structure of the writing, more with the words chosen.
The writing was what I would call deconstructed. There was no real style, no flare. It was minimalistic, using only the most basic of words and sentences to describe what was going on. Sometimes this works, but coupled with the third person point of view, I didn't like it. Now, I could picture everything easily, but that was because the story was more like a script than a novel to my ears.
Another problem for me was the unnecessary vulgarity. I can handle language in a novel, but only when it is genuine. There were f-bombs and other swear words thrown around all over the place, but it didn't feel like it fit with the characters or most of the situations. It seemed more like the words were there for shock value or to make the story and characters "edgier" or to try to sound like real teenagers, but it didn't feel authentic to me and took me out of the story every time.
Probably the biggest issue for me was the lack of actual plot. I'm not saying things don't happen in this story, and it is interesting to see Janie be in other people's dreams, but there was no driving action or problem that propelled the events forward to a resolution. We start the story by learning about how Janie has been able to see other people's dreams for a long time, so essentially, flashbacks. Then once we get to present day, Janie is just living her life, things and people coming in and out of it, but Janie herself isn't striving for anything other than to stay away from sleeping people during her own waking hours (but that's something she's been dealing with for years, so nothing new for her).
There is the back and forth with the main love interest, Cabel, as she's trying to find out information about him and they start what appears to be an on-again-off-again relationship, but once Janie learns the truth, not much happens with Janie other than personal growth. Same with Janie's friends. They provide situations for Janie to act upon, but Janie herself has little ambition outside of dealing with her dreamcatching ability, and even then, we don't really learn anything about her ability. Now, I'm not against personal growth for characters (far from it!) but in this story, with the other issues I already had, it got old for me. I wanted there to be something driving the action and the characters toward a goal, but it just wasn't there, and what was there was minimal and not exciting.
SETTING:To be honest, I can't remember the actual location of the story (Goodreads says Michigan) but, as I said above, the writing was simple and descriptive enough that you get a good sense of Janie's surroundings. I didn't think they were terribly enticing surroundings (save outside of Cabel's window, which I thought was kind of funny) but I think that was because the dream settings were usually different and interesting and that seemed to be where most of the exciting things happened.
Janie started out as an okay character. However, with the unnecessary cursing and later random drinking, I didn't like her much. I felt like I should have had some kind of connection with her, but I can go through each reason I should have and see how the story ruined those for me.
First, Janie's mother is a drunk that isn't reliable. But instead of going against her mother's example, Janie drinks whenever she feels like it, which was way more often than I thought reasonable. Second, Janie worked in a nursing home. However, I didn't feel like Janie had any compassion or feelings at all about her work other than it was job to get money for school. Third, Janie came from a humble living environment. But it really got old when she was constantly mentioning the differences in economic status every time she brought up one of the "rich" characters. It made her seem petty more than anything.
As for the love interest, Cabel was pretty good. Due to the misunderstanding that takes place most of the novel, he seems like a jerk for a while, but once its cleared up, you see him in a better light. He is a character that's been through his share of tough stuff, so that makes him more endearing, especially when you find out what he's doing. He did pull off that mysterious air and was definitely the bad boy who's really not bad, which I find appealing.
The other characters didn't make much of an impression on me. Some were like Janie, okay at first then losing their appeal, but mostly they all had roles to play, messed up, and had weird dreams. They didn't feel flat exactly but they weren't compelling either.
I think I've pretty much covered the downsides already. I'll just add that despite the shortness of the novel, I had to make myself finish it. While there were interesting parts, it felt like a laborious task to get to the end.
COOL STUFF:Admittedly, what Janie can do is pretty neat. The dreams were sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes gross, but hey, they are dreams, and anything can happen in dreams. But despite all the growth Janie has with her ability, like I said above, we don't really learn anything more about how or why she can do what she does. I've heard that the whole series is kind of about the discovery of this information, but there definitely needs to be some kind of episodic plot in the individual books if the overarching plot is just finding out the hows and whys of one element.
I definitely had higher hopes for Wake. With the simplified writing, unnecessary swearing, and barely-there plot, I just couldn't get into Janie's story or care what was going to happen, despite the interesting dream ability. Wake is a quick read, and an easy one for those that can overlook the issues, but because of all the problems I had with the first novel, I won't be continuing the Dream Catcher series.