Teenager Ava wakes up in a house she doesn’t remember, with a mother she doesn’t recognize. Everything around her seems alien, and since her memory seems to be wiped clean, everything is upsetting. But when she sleeps, she seems to recall what feels like her real life: one in a dystopian society where she had to work her way up the ranks from some kind of orphanage. She gets fleeting glimpses of a boy, Morgan, whom she is assigned to monitor for dangerous activity. But when she wakes, she is simply Ava, a normal teen who has amnesia and has to figure out how to navigate a life of high school and crushes and frenemies.
Even as her loving mother urges her to try to remember something, searching her eyes for signs of recognition, Ava struggles with her discomfort of feeling like a foreigner in someone else’s body. Readers feel keenly Ava’s disorientation and fear as she goes back and forth between a dream “reality” and waking life. This life is a nice one, with a kind woman who obviously loves her, and good food and a comfortable home, but as much as she’d like to enjoy it, nothing about it feels right.
Then Morgan appears in this life, and he seems to know who she really is. Should she trust him? If she does, what will happen to both of them? She knows the “real” Ava loves him. But she is warned away from him. At the same time, echoes of people from her dream life combine with the people she knows in her waking life, and she knows danger lies ahead, no matter what she does.
As I Wake is mostly a story of love, of belonging, of identity. But it has threads of dystopian themes and even a science fiction element. I gobbled it right up as I discovered where it was heading because I loved the idea, but I couldn’t possibly spoil the surprise for any other readers by giving any hints. The writing does have some drawbacks, but sometimes it seems to be purposeful because of the disjointedness of the story itself; many of the characters never meant much to me, again, in part, because of the nature of how the story was crafted; and the ending kind of satisfied in some ways but left some questions about some plot lines. But overall I liked the premise so well that the book generally worked for me.
Rated: Moderate, for one use of strong language, some other milder language, some fairly brief violence, and a few sexual references (a couple referring to self-pleasuring).