- As I Wake
This tale of amnesia and dystopia hits the ground running as Ava wakes, disoriented, first in a bedroom she doesn’t recognize, then in the hospital with a mother she doesn’t remember fretting over her, and finally, every day, in a world she neither remembers nor understands. Still she has flashes of familiarity—a classmate’s sad eyes, a friend’s power-hungry smile, her mother’s tired anxiety—that, along with brief stretches of memory, gradually lead her to the realization that she is from another, parallel world where she knows different versions of the friends and antagonists surrounding her. The world of Ava’s memory is brutal and hyper-surveilled, and she was a nothing in it, trying to work her way up by becoming a spy for the government. When her assigned target—and, it turns out, love interest—shows up in her current reality, everything begins to unravel. The glimpses of the way various individuals change (or don’t) in different situations, how they are honed or broken or corrupted, are rich with both chills and poignancy. Unfortunately, the reader is just as much as at sea as Ava for a significant portion of the book, and the multiple plot threads, untethered from any sense of what connects them, make for a somewhat splintered narrative arc. It’s not always clear who is in the know, and the ultimate explanation for what Ava is doing in this world and how the two realities are connected rings a bit hollow. Still, Ava herself is a complex, involving character, a survivor who got to where she is by never sticking her neck out, and it is interesting to watch her weigh safety against responsibility, love against fear. Hand this to fans of Shusterman’s Unwind (BCCB 2/08) and Scott’s own Grace (BCCB 10/10).