Madeline Freeman’s Awaking, a contribution to the increasingly full YA fiction field, is refreshing for a few reasons, not least because it features people with paranormal abilities who aren’t in the middle of a dystopia, and because it’s told in the third-person past tense. Most YA fiction today seems to be dystopic, told in the first-person present tense, and even the best of these start to sound the same. Awaking is different, thankfully; it reminded me more of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (without the literal vampires) and the old-school Lois Duncan books. Its narrative point of view, and its slightly innocent tone, ensures it stays separate from much of the YA pack.
The main character, Morgan, is a likable teenager with a missing mom and workaholic dad. She also happens to be a little bit psychic. As Awaking’s story unfolds, we find out she’s actually much more than just a little psychic. She can’t just see people’s futures; she has a lot of power in the present. No more spoilers here, beyond the discovery that she turns out to be quite powerful and quite important. (I’d expect no less of any YA paranormal book’s heroine.)
One of the strengths of Awaking is its variety of supporting characters, including two cute guys to round out the obligatory romantic triangle. Lucas and Corbin are attractive, supportive, and kind to Morgan. Luckily, they both have special abilities of their own, and so it’s no problem for them to keep up with her. To complicate matters, though, Morgan’s non-psychic best friend, Ris, has had a crush on Corbin for ages. The resulting conflict is believable, as is Morgan’s struggle with her attraction to her best friend’s potential boyfriend.
A variety of other characters, like the mysterious, talented, and vaguely unsettling Kellen, and the rich, off-putting Orrick, help flesh out the new world Morgan falls into. A few of the more minor characters seem to be going through the types of teenage identity crises that may be very true to life, but, since they take on new nicknames as they age and join new social circles, it can be confusing for the reader to keep track of everyone.
The book’s ending doesn’t provide as much of a cliffhanger as some other YA series openers do, but its plot does set some long-term mysteries in play. Needing to find out what’s really happened in Morgan’s past and how that might affect her future will certainly propel readers to the next volume.
Rachel, who has a Ph.D. in English, is a freelance writer/editor and a voracious reader. You can talk to her about books at http://twitter.com/writehandmann.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Madeline Freeman. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.