Review Blog

Dec 05 2013

Wild awake by Hilary T. Smith

cover image

Hardie Grant Egmont, 2013. ISBN 9781742977706.
(Age: 16+) Recommended for an older audience as it contains material including drugs and sexual content. While her parents are away on a cruise, 17 year old Kiri receives a strange phone call and discovers that her sister didn't die in a car accident, but had been murdered. Going to meet Doug, the man who had phoned, Kiri begins to uncover the mystery surrounding Sukey, the sister that her parents had kicked out of home. Her carefully regulated life begins to break down as she discovers the lies that her parents had told her and has to rethink her memories of her sister. Then she meets Skunk, a large, tattooed boy who repairs her bike and who is strange.
The reader is taken on a roller coaster ride with Kiri as she speeds on her bike, sometimes high on drugs, through the neighbourhood where her sister had last lived. From the obsessive teen, who has a practice timetable taped on the lid of her piano, organising for the International Young Pianist's Showcase, and who plays in Sonic Youth for the Battle of the Bands, we watch her exhilarating spiral down into what Lukas' social worker mother calls monomania. There are thrilling bike rides in the middle of the night, drug taking, music of both the classical and popular and discussions of life - 'The way cannot be cut, knotted, dimmed or stilled' - Skunk's and her favourite line from the Tao. Kiri's life is a mess and so is Skunk's, but together they move forward.
More serious issues of mental health, paranoia and murder are also themes, with questions of what is normality an undertone to the book. It is beautifully written with many striking images and dialogue. It is sure to appeal to reluctant readers and will engender much discussion around drug taking and honesty between family members.
Pat Pledger

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