Wild Awake

Overview

In Wild Awake, Hilary T. Smith's exhilarating and heart-wrenching YA debut novel, seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd has big plans for her summer without her parents. She intends to devote herself to her music and win Battle of the Bands with her bandmate and best friend, Lukas. Perhaps then, in the excitement of victory, he will finally realize she's the girl of his dreams.

But a phone call from a stranger shatters Kiri's plans. He says he has her sister's stuff—her sister, Sukey, ...

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Wild Awake

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Overview

In Wild Awake, Hilary T. Smith's exhilarating and heart-wrenching YA debut novel, seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd has big plans for her summer without her parents. She intends to devote herself to her music and win Battle of the Bands with her bandmate and best friend, Lukas. Perhaps then, in the excitement of victory, he will finally realize she's the girl of his dreams.

But a phone call from a stranger shatters Kiri's plans. He says he has her sister's stuff—her sister, Sukey, who died five years ago. This call throws Kiri into a spiral of chaos that opens old wounds and new mysteries.

Like If I Stay and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Wild Awake explores loss, love, and what it means to be alive.

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Editorial Reviews

Gayle Forman
“Hilary T. Smith’s absorbing debut whispers with mystery, drawing us into a world of dead sisters, family secrets, midnight bicycle rides, music, madness and art—ultimately exploring that most profound mystery of all: love.”
Horn Book Magazine
“Most fascinating in this stirring coming-of-age novel are the blurred lines between perception and reality, genius and madness, peace and turmoil. Debut author Smith embraces the complexities of grief, family dynamics, creativity, mental illness, and love and pens them with a thoughtful, subtle hand.”
ALA Booklist
“Debut author Smith can craft a simile like no one’s business, and her ebullient language drives this story, which captures moments of life at its highest and blurriest points: love, loss, music, freedom.”
Publishers Weekly
Kiri Byrd’s plan for the six weeks her parents are away involves practicing for the upcoming International Young Pianists’ Showcase, practicing some more, and then practicing with Lukas, her bandmate and crush, for their Battle of the Bands gig. She isn’t worried about being home alone: she’s 17, she’s responsible, and she’s got a schedule. But when someone calls to ask if Kiri will come pick up her dead sister’s belongings, things change in unexpected ways. Kiri’s life picks up speed and gets frighteningly close to flying out of control as she bikes to the rough side of Vancouver; meets Skunk, a musician and bicycle repairer; and finds out exactly how her sister, a troubled artist, died. In her YA debut, Smith (Welcome to the Jungle) handles Kiri’s grief and joy well, then takes these emotions and amps them up. When people around Kiri—including Skunk, who has his own mental health problems—and Kiri herself begin to think that she “might be having a Thing,” it’s believable, worrying, and relatable. Ages 14–up. Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (June)
VOYA - Erin Wyatt
Meticulous, disciplined Kiri Byrd outlines a grueling piano rehearsal schedule during her time home alone while her parents are on a six-week cruise. A mysterious phone call from someone claiming to have belongings from her dead sister sets Kiri on a manic path, on which, although she thinks all is well, it is clear those around her become increasingly alarmed. Discovering the artist sister she revered was not killed in a car accident but stabbed to death in her hovel of an apartment shakes Kiri to her core. Kiri dabbles with drinks and drugs and stops sleeping. Her romance with Skunk, an ex-rocker dealing with the aftermath of a psychotic episode of his own, is sudden and magical. Smith has created a compelling novel with moments of lyrical beauty. The city is gritty and beautiful with its nooks and crannies explored at all hours. The pace of the novel speeds up as Kiri becomes increasingly unhinged. While some of the choices she makes are cringe-inducing, she remains a character who elicits affection despite her troubles. Told from inside the increasingly disorderly mind of Kiri, there are enough reactions from other characters to give insight into her erratic behavior. As Kiri loses almost all that was important to her in her orderly, parent-pleasing life (as it was at the outset of the story), it seems she will work to rebuild her reality and get the help she needs. Reviewer: Erin Wyatt
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Ever since Kiri Byrd was 12, the only thing she had known about the death of her beloved, yet troubled older sister was that it was accidental. Her parents hadn't even let her go to Sukey's funeral and they certainly never wanted her to talk about her feelings. And so rather than grieve for her sister properly, Kiri threw herself into playing piano. She was the dutiful daughter, causing her parents no unnecessary stress or disharmony. But five years later, Kiri still isn't okay. When her parents leave her alone for six weeks to take an anniversary vacation, Kiri doesn't realize just how much her sister's death has affected her until she receives a mysterious phone call. She discovers that Sukey was murdered. Unsupervised and vulnerable, she quickly spirals out of control-smoking pot, practicing piano for days without sleep-as she learns exactly what happened to the sister she idolized. In this exquisite debut novel, Smith adeptly captures the darkness and betrayal of a family secret. Kiri's narrative is heart-wrenching as she confronts her grief and acts out her frustration at her parents for not only lying to her all these years, but also for abandoning her when she needs them most. The story is beautifully written and engaging, and Kiri's voice is a powerful reminder that life can be full of pain and joy and that to embrace both is good for the soul.—Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
A young woman spirals into mania after hearing the truth about her sister's death in this flawed but heady debut. While her parents are on a six-week anniversary cruise, 17-year-old piano prodigy Kiri is responsible for watering the azaleas and practicing daily for the upcoming International Young Pianists' Showcase. But when a stranger calls claiming to have information about her deceased sister, Kiri abandons her disciplined routines and sets out to discover the truth about Sukey, since "[w]hen she died, it was like my house burned down." After learning Sukey was murdered, not killed in an accident as she had been led to believe, Kiri eschews sleep, takes drugs, goes on midnight bike rides, wins a battle of the bands and falls in love with a formerly paranoid-schizophrenic musician. Each questionable action brings her closer to closure over Sukey's death, but will she survive the summer? Though the secondary characterizations are sometimes sketchy, and the plot has some holes (would Kiri's strict parents really leave her alone for six weeks? Is Kiri suffering from delayed grief or true mania?), Smith's exuberant use of language helps gloss over them. Similes such as "[t]he piano is like a sleek black submarine that carries me deep, deep down, until the surface world is nothing but a muffled shimmer" sing off every page. Beautiful and energetic, if jumbled; Smith's a writer to watch. (Fiction. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062184696
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/19/2015
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,464,793
  • Age range: 14 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Hilary T. Smith lives in Portland, Oregon, where she studies North Indian classical music and works on native plant restoration. She is the author of Wild Awake.

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