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Review: Wake by Amanda Hocking

CJ’s Review

Wake by Amanda Hocking
Young adult fiction released by St. Martin’s Griffin on August 7, 2012

Gorgeous. Fearless. Dangerous. They’re the kind of girls you envy; the kind of girls you want to hate. Strangers in town for the summer, Penn, Lexi and Thea have caught everyone’s attention—but it’s Gemma who’s attracted theirs. She’s the one they’ve chosen to be part of their group.

Gemma seems to have it all—she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door. He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back. Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever. She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove. They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different.

Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price. And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves—or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.

I guess what initially attracted me to this book was the story behind it. You know–the one about self-publishing’s darling and the huge commercial deal. I wanted to know whether Hocking had written something genuinely worth publishing, or if St. Martin’s Press had simply seen a sure profit in her previous success. I wasn’t overly excited to read Wake. It had an interesting premise and I tried to approach it with an open mind but I just couldn’t stave off the sense of trepidation as I started reading.

Gemma, like every other person in this book, is a cookie-cutter-character. She’s a Mary-Sue to the nth degree—beautiful, athletic, and perfect. Oh, sure, she’s got a rebellious streak—she enjoys going swimming at night—but there is no depth to her character and I couldn’t make myself like her.

Harper, Gemma’s older sister and the other main character, doesn’t even warrant a mention in the blurb. She’s a walking cliché—the over-protective older sister trying to take the place of an absent mother—not to mention a complete and utter pain in the arse. Harper actually made me care about her, but in a ‘what the hell are you doing?!’ sort of way. From the moment I met her, I detested her desire to control Gemma’s life and her attitude towards Daniel. She could have such a bright future. The scholarship she worked so hard for guaranteed her a place at any college she wanted, but she chose a local school just because she doesn’t trust that Gemma and their father can look after themselves. When executed properly this trope makes the character in question appear multi-faceted but Harper just seemed controlling.

The romance in this book was almost depressing. Alex, the boy next door, is sweet and nice, but his initial description painted him in such a way that he was so far out of the realm of love interest he could have been Gemma’s brother. Daniel, on the other hand, was obviously a romantic interest even though Harper was so intent on being rude and haughty when he was around. It made me question what he saw in her and made me feel sorry for him.

It’s hard to believe just how much this book dragged on. Wake is marketed as a tale of sirens and fantasy but, for the most part, it’s simply about family relationships, which isn’t what I signed up for. The catalyst for the events in the cover copy doesn’t even occur until the book is half-finished leaving the first fifty percent a hard slog to get through. If I didn’t have a thing about finishing what I start, I would have given up a quarter of the way in when I was still wondering when the real story would start.

My biggest gripe with Wake was the voice. I don’t read to be told a story, I read to escape. The best books drag you under the surface and wrap you in sensory details without actually shoving them down your throat. From the very beginning I choked on the back-story flooding the prose and, if that wasn’t doing the trick, the unbelievable dialogue kept me from enjoying the tale at all.

I feel like I’m grasping at straws to try and find something good to say about this book. I made it to the end, but it was a struggle. I couldn’t picture the world and none of the characters made a lasting impression on me other than dislike. In fact, the more I force myself to try to think of something good I find myself detesting it even more. The only thing that endeared this book to me was the fact the sirens weren’t that of the Disney variety.

I can’t bring myself to recommend it. It just annoyed me too much.

Grade: F

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.