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Wake by Abria Mattina
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I received a copy of this book from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review, and all conclusions are my responsibility. While this book is often tagged as a YA contemporary romance, or a YA story: I don’t think those simplistic categorizations are complete. Yes, there is romance and there are teenagers as the primary protagonists in the story – but it is so much deeper and more all-encompassing than just tagging it with a Contemporary Romance label.

This story is touchingly and cleverly crafted as 3 or 4 day journal entries: his side then her side where somewhere in the middle lies the real truth fashion. We have Jem, newly in remission from a long battle with cancer and the treatment and Willa who has just returned to this town after losing a sister to cancer. The two are introduced in a Social Sciences class in high school, and from there the story begins to unfold.

What the author has done so cleverly is completely immerse each entry with all of the angst, anger, confusion and conflict that are common to the human condition, even without the overbearing weight of cancer, and managed to create two distinct young adults – both of whom are lucky to still be around. Throughout the 6 months that are contained in the story, we see the characters grow and mature, develop into real people with tangible issues, showing the healing power of openness and acceptance, and what it truly means to love and accept.

Even the secondary characters that are introduced are done so with a flair and a style that creates someone that we all are familiar with, if not exact copies, well enough crafted to give an instant “realness” to them, most of the family members are quite well flushed out, schoolmates tend to be more along the “stereotypical” lunchroom divisions, but even with that generalization there is good depth in characterization.

759 is a healthy amount of pages, and may look quite daunting, but the story really has been trimmed nicely, without many pages of excess. The need to know what was next, why Willa wore fingerless gloves everywhere, what cancer did Jem have, where would the story go: it went forward at breakneck pace.

As much of the story is told in journal form, and there are several conversations retold from both sides, it could feel stilted to read – but again, very cleverly the author manages to craft dialog that both flows from one speaker to the next, but does so with such concise and clear voice, that the lack of the “he said” then “she said” is not even missed.

There are a couple of spots where words were missed, or typos caused me to stumble as I read – but to be honest, they were nearly inconsequential when I think back on the book. I just wish that it were available in traditional book form as well as electronic, as I think it’s a book worth passing along to others to read. While the themes of cancer, and death by extension, are not going to be a first choice read – they are far overshadowed by the joy in acceptance and discovery that happen throughout this story.
( )
  IamIndeed | Mar 30, 2013 |
This book was fantastic!!!! Seriously, it was so good, if I could give it more than 5 stars, I definitely would. In fact, I’ve already gotten one friend to purchase a copy for himself, and I am anxiously waiting to hear his thoughts on it. Don’t let the high page count scare you off! It almost scared me off, I’ll admit it. I kept delaying reading this book. Funny how something like that can scare you. BUT I made a huge mistake in waiting. Honestly, I don’t think the cover or the blurb do the contents of this story justice. No, I have no clue how I would change either one lol. I should also note that I powered through this book in one weekend – I couldn’t help it, it was that good. I literally had double vision from eye strain while grocery shopping! And it was totally worth it!

Let’s start with the facts about this story. It is about Jem (short for Jeremiah) and Willa, two high school students with more pain in their history than any person should have to deal with. The story alternates between both of their point of views, sometimes both going over the same scene from their own point of view. This worked SO well for this story. It kept it fresh and moving. Right from the beginning of this story I was captured by the whole tone and easy flow.

First we have Jem. Jem is in remission from cancer. He is relatively new at his high school, so he doesn’t really have any strong relationships with people there. He does, however, have incredibly strong and powerful relationships with the people within his family. I loved them all, and I couldn’t wait until I could come over to their house and integrate myself into the Harper family. I firmly believe without their love and support Jem would not have survived the diseased that ravaged his young body. Aside from that, Jem is a bit of a snarky pessimist – a new thing for him. But he has just survived something so painful and it has stolen so much from him, you can’t blame him. But even further, he is a deep and caring person. He has a wicked sense of humor and I would totally want to be his friend.

“… And before you try any other small talk: yes, I really did move here from Newfoundland; no, you may not borrow my car, homework, or money; black is my favorite color and the Stones feed it to the Beetles. Okay?” -Willa

Next, and certainly not least, Willa. Willa has just moved back to Smiths Falls. She is a bit quirky, and cancer has also touched her family. She is no stranger to the pain and fear that the disease brings to not only the patient, but everyone around them. But she has this wonderfully warm and caring side that she just really doesn’t give herself credit for. So many times I just wanted her to see what a terrific person she is, but when you have secrets like hers it can be hard to see what is right in front of you.

Willa and Jem become lab partners in Social Studies. It begins as a horrible and annoying friendship of circumstance. Both are annoyed by the other, but you can tell there is something else there just swimming beneath the surface. And then a friendship begins; a complex, beautiful, enchanting, scary and frightening friendship. I really believe that Willa was a huge part in Jem’s recovery, and her sincerity and sensitivity were integral to him becoming him again. Their road is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. But through the entire book I was constantly pulling for them. I wanted them to work through his attitude, her ability to shut down, all of the mountains before them. I fell in love with these characters. I didn’t do the math, but you get a nearly daily account of their days for several months. It really gives you a chance to get to know them. I mean, you get to know these characters on such a basic level you feel like you’ve known them forever. When they hurt, so do you. And when they smile it puts you over the moon. This book was definitely magical and touching, and I was sad when it was over. But I WILL read it again. I have a feeling this is a book where you learn something new every time you read it. I wish it was in print, but I don’t believe it is. Another thing, if you are a foodie, make sure to check out Abria’s website while you read the book. Food plays a huge part in this story, and she is awesome enough to have the recipes on her site!

I really believe this book is a hit, and you will too. So I hope you give it a chance. Don’t let the long length scare you off, it goes fast. In fact, I’m thinking sometime in the near future I will be including this book in a giveaway because when I find something I love, I have to share it with everyone! If you have already read it – please come talk to me!! I really need someone I can gush over the wonderfulness of it all with!

Edit: It is available in print on Lulu ( )
  FictionalCandy | Jun 9, 2012 |
I love books written from the main characters points of view, alternating between each character, but continuing with the story. This book was written very well. There was a heading for each of the characters, but then it was also broken into days like a diary. However, there was not that feel of a diary, to me it felt just like large paragraph breaks with headings. Done very well! There was not a lot of overlap between the characters, except when there needed to be. This balance was very well done.

The book starts January 19th. Jem is in remission and there is a new girl in his school, Willa. This story mainly revolves around these two and is a beautiful love story.

Jem was very likeable. The author created a strong male character who may or may not be in a weak situation. Depends on how you look at him or the situation. Jem was trying to return to “normal” but normal may not be what it used to be. He grew to understand himself, what he used to be, and where he was now. He also was learning how to shape himself better.

Willa was a very strong female character. She was not afraid of Jem and what he had gone through, even though she really should have been afraid of what she was getting herself into. Willa also has her own struggles she is dealing with, past and present. Learning to work through those, she helps many others in the book.

Elise is the younger sister who did a brave thing by being a donor for her brother. While not an easy task, she knew she wanted to do it without question. She is growing up and wants to prove she is old enough for grown up things. Of course, her older brother is very protective. Elise returns this favor by still being his protector and provide comfort to him.

Ava is one of Jem’s friends from Ottawa. I really liked her when I first met her and that’s why I wanted to put her in the review. She comes to visit him and “set him straight”. She does have some similar character traits as Willa, but Willa is a little more polished.

I loved all the characters and their situations. This story, while it is 759 pages, did not ever keep me from wanting to turn page after page after page. Very enjoyable read! ( )
  nsjlh | May 28, 2012 |
Well written. Not much I DIDN'T like. Very realistic view on cancer. However in the end, these characters were people that I had a nice visit with, but I don't think I'll be going back. ( )
  virtualval2001 | Mar 25, 2012 |
With this one I feel I should start with the characters. Admittedly I didn't like Jem at first. I found him to be rude and kind of obnoxious as a character but I didn't let it hold me back from reading on as I grew quite fond of him in the end.

What I really loved about the characters was that they were extremely complicated. At first it was quite overwhelming but as I got into the story I found myself really feeling for them and liking how relatable they are. They had faults, they had a lot of baggage and they were human. I do like characters where you want to shout at them for doing one thing and then the next thing you know they come together and they have this chemistry that makes them so easy to read about.

I also loved how the book came together as a whole. Initially I saw how many pages it was and was like, woah, this is going to take quite a bit of time, but it didn't. It had this nice flow to the writing that made me utterly engrossed so I flew through the book. ( )
  GloriousBooks | Feb 5, 2012 |
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Eighteen isn't too young to run your life into the ground, but it's not too old to fix it, either. The desire for change drives Willa Kirk from St. John's, Newfoundland back to her hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario, away from her mistakes and the place where her sister died. She's looking for a place to settle and rebuild, but Jem Harper just wants to get out of town, back to the life he knew before cancer. By letting the tragedies in their lives define them, they are both dying a little more every day. Welcome to the wake.… (more)

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