I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author and the publisher for allowing me this opportunity to read We Awaken in advance.
Calista Lynne’s We Awaken follows the story of Victoria Dinham, who is still very much struggling to deal with the aftermath of the accident that took the life of her father, and put her brother in a coma a year ago. Things get a little strange when Victoria is paid a visit in her dreams by Ashlinn, who claims to have a message from her comatose brother. Victoria finds herself drawn to this ‘dream girl’ and finds that their nightly meetings are what she looks forward to most. As the two girls grow close, Ashlinn helps Victoria realize that she is asexual, and gives her the much needed support and knowledge to deal with this revelation about her sexuality.
We Awaken exists in a literary world where asexuality is largely ignored; in this way, Calista Lynne has written an incredibly important novel about a community which is severely underrepresented in literature. I have very conflicting feelings about this novel, but I’m sure of one thing: if you are not aware of what asexuality is, and want to know more, this novel is an accurate while entertaining means to get this information. In some places, it almost read like an Asexuality 101 textbook, and while the integration felt a little clunky in the larger context of the story, it did the job. I now feel like I have a tentative grasp on the basics of asexuality, and can maybe even explain it to someone who is completely unfamiliar.
I used the word ‘textbook’ above, but I have to point out that unlike textbooks, We Awaken is beautifully written. Lynne’s writing is the perfect midpoint between being too simplistic and too flowery- the result is a novel that is both fast-paced, entertaining and can offer beautiful language as well.
But alas, the writing technique and the subject matter are perhaps the only things that worked. Before going into this novel, I was under the impression that Victoria’s asexuality would seamlessly integrate into a novel about loss, family and love. But in truth, her asexuality is largely at the forefront, which in itself is not a negative at all. What is a negative is that there was so much going on- her father’s death and her brother’s coma was largely brushed aside when Ashlinn came into the picture, so much so that when the topic of them was brought up here and there, I questioned its genuineness. We Awaken is an amalgamation of contemporary and paranormal; half reads like one genre, half reads like the other. Again, I did not think the two complemented each other. While in the paranormal areas, the issues of the contemporary world were largely forgotten, and vice versa. Sometimes I felt as if I was reading two different books instead of one cohesive, well-balanced story.
Which brings me to the topic of pacing. Now, We Awaken is a very short novel; Goodreads tells me that the page count is 180 pages. But 180 pages is still a good number to tell a story with all the details that matter. Lynne chose to focus on the scenes that felt rather unimportant considering all that was going on in Victoria’s life. These scenes could have been eliminated to make way for more heartfelt scenes between Ashlinn and Victora- more build-up because I felt that their romance was rushed and very insta-lovey. More time could have been spent on Victoria dealing with her family. And more time could be spent on an issue dealing with mental illness that was tossed aside as a plot point- I cannot say more for the risk of spoilers.
But despite my problems with the storytelling aspect of the novel, I do think that this is a book worthy of being read, if not only for the subject matter it deals with. It was perfectly enjoyable while also giving its readers some much needed truths, so I would still recommend it to readers, especially those who look further than entertainment, and look to learn something concrete from what they read.
This book becomes available on July 14th.