Review: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Wild AwakeTitle: Wild Awake

Author: Hilary T. Smith

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Release Date: May 28th, 2013

Interest: Contemporary / Debut Author

Source: ARC received from the editor

Summary (From Goodreads):

Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.

To put it simply, I just loved Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith.

Smith’s writing is lively and beautiful.  I almost never take notes when I’m reading a book because it distracts me, but I had to write down multiple sentences and paragraphs while reading  Wild Awake.  If I didn’t want to stop, I took a picture of what I was reading so I would remember it when writing this review.  Here are a few of the sections I wanted to remember (quotes taken from the ARC):

“His smile is a jar full of fireflies.”

“…I feel more exposed than I ever have before, like I’m climbing a rock face with only a strand of dental floss for a harness. The music we’re playing is a dripline straight from our hearts, a confession of all that we are.”

“…I’ve traded in a jar full of pennies for a bar of gold.  It’s amazing how quickly the things you thought would make you happy seem small once you stumble on something true.”

Hilary T. Smith has lines like those woven throughout her entire novel.  I absolutely love her similes and metaphors.

Along with loving the writing, I adore Kiri Byrd.  She is alive on the page.  I simultaneously worried about Kiri while wanting to be her friend and spend time with her.  I worried for her because she is grieving over her sister and what she discovers about her sister.  I also worried for her because she’s manic and dealing with it all by herself.  (Note–I knew something was mentally wrong with Kiri, but didn’t think of mania–I have no idea why not–until Kelly @ Stacked pointed it out in her review, which is great by the way.)  What’s awesome about Wild Awake is that I never felt like I was reading a novel about grief.  I understood Kiri’s grief and empathized with her, but I never felt down while reading this.  I think the main reason I didn’t feel down is because Kiri is so exuberant.  Even at times that she shouldn’t be, she is full of life and wonder and wanting the best for herself and for Skunk.

Speaking of Skunk, his character is wonderful.  He and Kiri are both suffering, but they’re life rafts for each other.  He’s her “bicycle boy,” her “love-bison,” and so much more.  Kiri sees his potential and wants to help him heal.  I don’t want to say too much more because I’m afraid I’ll spoil something, but I sure do love Skunk.  Especially Skunk and Kiri together.

A couple people have asked me if Wild Awake would be okay for middle grade readers, and I’m honestly not sure.  There isn’t anything graphically sexual in this novel, but the themes and issues are deep.  I’m not sure if a middle grade reader would grasp what exactly is going on with Kiri and Skunk.  My best advice is to read this–because you’ll hopefully enjoy it anyway–then make your decision based on what you know about your readers.  I feel completely comfortable offering this to new freshmen in the fall, if that helps at all.

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith is a must-read.  Based on this debut, I know that Hilary T. Smith is going to be an exciting voice in YA literature.  I can’t wait to read what she writes next!


  1. This is a very nice review. One of the reasons I shy away from novels about depression, etc, is because of the “feeling down” factor that can come with it. This novel might be the nice in between that I like to encounter. Thanks for the great referral!

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