Bands, Bikes & Boys: ‘Wild Awake’ by Hilary T. Smith

Wild Awake is a hard book to describe. It’s about family, it’s about death, it’s about grief, it’s about mental illness, it’s about love, it’s about music…and a lot more. In a word, it’s intense, and if you’re anything like me, it will totally suck you in, like literary quicksand.

When Kiri’s parents go out of town for the summer, she has the house to herself. All she has to do is get the mail, water the azaleas, practice piano…and convince her BFF and bandmate Lukas to fall in love with her. No sweat! But when she gets a phone call from a mysterious stranger (is there any other kind of stranger?) who says he has her sister’s things, Kiri decides to figure out what’s going on. Sukey died in a car accident five years ago, so Kiri’s desperate for any piece of her. This one phone call changes Kiri’s entire summer. As she finds out the truth about the circumstances behind Sukey’s death, her perfect, piano practicing daughter lifestyle begins to fall apart. She also ends up falling head-over-handlebars in love, but not with Lukas, which isn’t a spoiler because it’s mentioned on the book jacket. Y’all know I’m not into spoilers.

No, the object of her affection isn’t Lukas, which is fine with me because he’s kind of lame anyway (seriously, Kiri’s hilarious and he doesn’t even seem to care!). Instead, Kiri falls for a bicycle-fixing punk named Skunk. I love a nontraditional YA love interest, and Skunk fits the bill. Kiri refers to him as her “love bison,” which isn’t a term you hear too often. Or, you know, ever.

Kiri and Skunk’s flirtation and romance is sweet and funny, but soon Kiri gets a little out of control, in the most literal sense of the phrase. Even though most people in her life are concerned about her, Kiri keeps doing impulsive things and getting into dangerous situations. There are bike crashes, late nights, illicit substances and one scene with six grilled cheese sandwiches that just made me really hungry. Wild Awake made me truly frightened for and anxious about Kiri. Hilary T. Smith is such a great writer that I sort of felt like I was the one who’d gone three days without sleeping, not Kiri.

You’ll have to read the book to find out more, but suffice it to say that Wild Awake is unpredictable, exhilarating and totally addictive. I couldn’t read it fast enough, and now I’m already sad that it’s over. Of course I’ll miss Skunk (Love Bison!), but mostly I wish I could read more about Kiri. She’s funny, smart and unlike any YA heroine I’ve ever read.


-Okay, so I already told you guys about how much I loved the plot and characters in Wild Awake. Well, guess what? The writing is beautiful, too! Here’s one example:

“People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.”

  • Kiri us a super hilarious narrator. For example, when she’s discussing her crush on Lukas, she says, “We have Done Things right here in Lukas’s basement. Steamy things. Things that make my lady-parts glow with heat just thinking about them.
  • What Other Things have we done, you ask?
  • We kissed. Once. And Lukas put his hand on my leg. And I touched his earlobe with my finger.”

I wish Kiri and I were friends so we could sit around and talk about boys, but I’m pretty sure (100% sure) I’m not wild enough for her and she’d just say, “Leave me alone, old lady!” and go have another nighttime bicycle adventure.

-If you love Wild Awake and want more of Hilary T. Smith, be sure to check out her awesome blog, where she used to be known as INTERN. You can also read the writing advice she doled out, which is smart and funny, just like Wild Awake.

What about you guys? Have you read Wild Awake? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

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