6 Rated Books 7 Rated Books Book Reviews Joint Review YA Appreciation Month

Joint Review: Wake by Lisa McMann

Title: Wake

Author: Lisa McMann

Genre: Speculative Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Simon Pulse (US) / Simon & Schuster (UK)
Publication Date: December 2008 (US) / October 2009 (UK)
Paperback: 224 pages

Stand alone or series: Book 1 of the Dream Catcher (Wake) trilogy.

Why did we read this book: Both of us had seen the cover, the numerous reviews filled with praise across blogland, and found the premise pretty interesting. And since both of us were intrigued, we decided on a joint review.

Summary: (from Amazon.com)
Not all dreams are sweet.
For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people’s dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie’s seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can’t tell anybody about what she does — they’d never believe her, or worse, they’d think she’s a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn’t want and can’t control.

Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else’s twisted psyche. She is a participant….


First Impressions:

Thea: My first thought when I started Wake was a little hesitant. The format of the book is broken into headers under dates and times, in sort of an episodic, third person present tense play-by-play. I was scared it would get kinda hokey, kinda quickly…but it didn’t. Wake‘s narrative style works beautifully with the type of story it is, and I found myself unable to put the book down. Seriously, this is one thrilling little book – I gotta say, I enjoyed it.

Ana:I too enjoyed Wake and quite a lot, actually. Thrilling is a damn good word to describe Wake as I was unable to put the book down after I started reading it. It is a very short book and I was done within two hours – and in those two hours I went through a rollercoaster of emotions: I laughed, I was angry, I was terrified and I cried at least twice.

On the Plot:
Wake follows Janie, a seventeen-year old girl who has had little rest for most of her life. Anytime Janie is in close proximity to someone asleep, she immediately and uncontrollably gets sucked into their dreams. This understandably causes some big problems for Janie – when someone sleeps in class, behind her on the bus, or even has a nightmare and she’s driving by, she goes into something of a seizure, blind and paralyzed in body, she has to endure the entire dream with the dreamer in her mind. As Janie grows older, this becomes more of a problem, especially in her study hall and at her job as an assistant at a nursing home. But then her dreams start to change – first, there’s Cabel who can see, speak to and remember Janie in his dreams. Then, Janie realizes she might not have been the only one with the power and curse of slipping into others’ sleep – and she learns that in the dreams, she might have the power to change things.

Thea: As far as plotting is concerned, Wake isn’t exactly a traditional story with a dominating main problem and resolution. It’s an incredibly readable novel, but not because of a central conflict – rather, this is a book about a character struggling with what she perceives to be her curse. As I mentioned before, Wake is written in an episodic fashion, broken down by dates and times and composed almost entirely of brisk, quick sentences. For example:

October 16, 2005, 9:30 p.m.
It’s Sunday. The house is clean. Janie had the day off. She ran out for groceries in the morning, vacuumed, dusted, washed, polished, shined, and steam-cleaned.

Now, Jaine is asleep on the couch.

This writing style may seem gimmicky at first, but it’s an ingenious gimmick as it suits the story perfectly. What is Janie’s life, as she jumps from dream to life and life to dream, if not a series of episodes?

Most of Wake‘s plot deals with Janie and her struggles, especially after she becomes close with Cabel. There’s a lot of teenage angst – Cabel likes Janie but can’t always be with her, Janie gets disappointed and angry when Cabel seems to be dealing drugs and sidling up with a popular cheerleader type, Cabel tries to get Janie’s attention but she doesn’t want any of it, etc, etc, ad nauseam. But, surprisingly, the angst (though predictable) isn’t at all trite or draggy. And, when Janie and Cabel finally get their wires uncrossed, it’s pretty sweet.

Though much of the book is devoted to the relationship between these two characters, the draw to Wake in my opinion is Janie and her gradual understanding of her gift. What starts off as a curse becomes something that Janie (finally) learns that she can control and even change, especially when she discovers she might not be the only one of her kind. The dream sequences are varied, ranging from terrifying to hilarious to exhausting, and are definitely one of the strongest parts of this book. Though, by the end of the novel it gets a tad tiresome with Janie slipping into dreams so often, it’s still a very cool, imaginative idea. Major kudos to Ms. McMann.

My only real dislike with the book was how it turned into a ridiculously simplistic cop novel by the end. Seriously, this has gotta be the nicest police station in the country with the most understanding captain ever. Everything is so prettily and easily resolved by the end of Wake, it’s a little tough to swallow or take seriously. Not that it’s bad, but it’s just a bit…simple.

Ana:I very much enjoyed the narrative style – first person, present tense, and short, staccato sentences – because it was extremely effective in presenting the story to the reader. I felt it was the best choice as it fit perfectly with what I felt, Lisa McMann was trying to do. The episodic narrative was very potent in conveying just how episodic Janie’s life was. It portrayed beautifully the sense of being alone and the idea that she was utterly, completely unable to avoid being captured in someone else’s dream. The fact that every single step she took in her life was so that she could avoid being close to someone who was asleep and everything in her day or life had to be carefully planned showed that she there was no possibility of casual agency in Jaine’s life. For that, a lot of what happens in Wake made me feel like I was the one trapped in a nightmare.

The story starts to change a bit when Jaine realises that she can’t allow herself to be dragged through life like that and that’s when she is able to find a way to control what happens to her. And yes, that comes with responsibility and yes, it opens up doors and I though the idea behind what she can do was quite interesting.

Similarly, I was completely captivated by the romance plotline as well – In fact, it may have been my favourite part of the novel, and all that teen angst was so wonderfully irresistible. I was completely surprise at how such a narrative style could convey a LOT of emotion without really putting it out there. It is through actions rather than feelings that we learn what the characters are going through. It is funny how once again, Thea and I chose the very same quote to use in our review but here it goes again – the same bit above, which I think is a GREAT sequence that shows how Jaine is first, excited about a date with Cabel and then the ensuing disappointment that we can only guess at:

October 16, 2005, 9:30p.m.
“It’s Sunday. The house is clean. Janie had the day off. She ran out for groceries in the morning, vaccuumed, dusted, washed, polished, shined, and steam-cleaned.
Now, Janie is asleep on the couch.
Cabel doesn’t come.
Or call.”

I really did enjoy most of the book but as Thea I felt that I had to suspend disbelief when it came to the final part. Regardless of that, this is a solid first in a series.

On the Characters:

Thea: Wake is definitely a book about characters – in particular, Janie and Cabel, as characters. Janie is a strong heroine who translates as a very real, very tired teen and is without a doubt the best part of this novel. Since the time she was 8, Janie has experienced these episodes where she is victim to anyone sleeping nearby, and what she has to go through and the extent of how dreaming affects her day to day life is a shocking thing to read. Add to this Janie’s alcoholic mother and her life of poverty, her own determination to make enough money to eat and to go to college, and you have an incredibly endearing heroine. I loved how in the early portion of the book, Ms. McMann takes readers through some parts of Janie’s childhood and gradually shows how she has become the person she is in real-time – Janie tries to be normal, but it’s impossible between her home life, her tough work schedule, and the fact that her days and nights are interrupted by other dreamers leaving Janie exhausted.

Then, of course, there’s Cabel. Cabel has the requisite tortured past which didn’t really speak to me (sorry Ana, I’ve read better!), and he seemed like a mashup of the every paranormal dream-boy in so many young adult titles these days. He’s gorgeous and smart and of course is HIDING A SECRET but is a misunderstood good guy with a good heart (and naturally, is head over heels in love with heroine Janie and has been forever). Meh. It’s not that Cabel is a bad character, but he’s not a particularly unique one, or one that elicited any real emotion from me.

Cabel aside, there are glimpses of other character that I wish I knew more about in Wake – for example, Janie’s mother. Why did she start with the drinking? Did she have Janie’s power and resort to alcohol to take the edge off? There’s also Janie’s best friend and next door neighbor Carrie – who has a troubled past of her own and gets into her own scrapes over the course of the book. There’s the biatch, Melinda. We never really know much about Melinda (other than she has a secret crush on Carrie and hates Janie with a passion), but I’m hoping she’ll be in the next book with a little more color. Finally, there’s Miss Stubin, who I definitely expect to see more of…

Ana: Cabel, Cabel, Cabel….oh, let me count the ways I felt for this character. I have to wholly disagree with Thea on this one – my emotional connection with the book was all because of Cabel, much more than Jaine. From the first time we see glimpses of his nightmares via Jaine, I felt sorry for the guy. For his childhood, for what he was going through right now and I loved him. Mind you, it is not a “falling in love” kind of love but a humane, sympathetic love for this character. When it came to one scene in particular where he is completely naked for Jaine to see, I cried. I was in public, reading at Starbucks, and I had to hide my tears behind the book, I was practically sobbing. I though his actions were sweet and romantic and he was well-suited for Jaine – but he wasn’t perfect and neither was she.

As for Jaine, she is indeed an endearing heroine and once she finally decides to take control she becomes a really strong protagonist and someone I was able to root for and relate to. As for the other characters, they are there but not really enough fleshed out for me to care – although I do have one of my Special Theories about Jaine’s mother and the reason behind her withdrawal from the world.

But really, the best aspect of Wake, for me, was Cabe and Jaine’s relationship.

Final Thoughts, Observation and Rating:

Thea: This is a quick, fun read and one I’d recommend especially to those looking for some fast entertainment. It’s the kind of book I’d recommend for parents trying to get their kids into reading, or to friends who want to ease into the YA paranormal genre. I wasn’t blown away by Wake, but I certainly enjoyed it! And I cannot wait to give Fade a read, very soon.

Ana:Wake is thrilling and undeniably romantic with well-written Teen angst and a gripping storyline. I actually think this works really well on its own and I was thoroughly satisfied with the way things were when I closed the book. I will read Fade though – and as soon as I can.

Notable Quotes/Parts:

Thea: The first time Janie tries to have a sleepover is a disaster and a great scene that sets the stage for Janie’s future (and it’s kind of funny too).

Ana: The scene were Cabe tells about his childhood and shows his back to Jaine and he cries. Or the scene in the bus when Jaine is in the throes of several dreams one after the other and he takes care of her. Awww.

Additional Thoughts:

Book 2, Fade continues the story of Janie and Cabel, and book 3 in the trilogy, Gone, is due out early next year.

Janie thought she knew what her future held. And she thought she’d made her peace with it. But she can’t handle dragging Cabel down with her.

She knows he will stay with her, despite what she sees in his dreams. He’s amazing. And she’s a train wreck. Janie sees only one way to give him the life he deserves–she has to disappear. And it’s going to kill them both.

Then a stranger enters her life–and everything unravels. The future Janie once faced now has an ominous twist, and her choices are more dire than she’d ever thought possible. She alone must decide between the lesser of two evils. And time is running out…

He reaches toward her, his fingers black and bloody, his eyes deranged, unblinking. Janie is paralyzed. his cold hands reach around her neck, squeezing tight, tighter, until Janie has no breath left. She’s unable to move, unable to think. As his grasp tightens further around Janie’s neck, his face turns sickly alabaster. He strains harder and begins to shake.

Janie is dying.
She has no fight left in her.
It’s over.


Thea: 6 – Good

Ana: 7 – Very Good

Reading Next: Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale


  • elaing8
    August 20, 2009 at 5:42 am

    I really enjoyed the first 2 books. i look forward to the 3rd to see how everything ends.

  • Amie Stuart
    August 20, 2009 at 7:35 am

    LOVE LOVE LOVED!!! THis book–but you probably heard me squealing about it on twitter LOL
    I hear you on the end and the cops but I think it worked for me because of stuff I can’t say because it’s a spoiler (Janie’s predecessor). Didn’t like FADE as much but still liked it a lot. I do wish/hope that, at some point, McMann addresses the issue of Janie’s mother. The non-character (of the mother) was fine for the first book but in the second it did…maybe it’s just me reading too much into the story, but it’s a plot issue I’d like to see dealt with.

  • Rhiannon Hart
    August 20, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Amie–I agree. I think there’s lots of scope to do something with Janie’s alcoholic mother. Or at least explain why she’s like that.

    Great review. I liked this book. Highly engaging.

  • Rhiannon Hart
    August 20, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Did you know about this Thea? http://us.macmillan.com/book.aspx?isbn=9780765324337

  • Tautiana Workman
    September 17, 2010 at 8:14 am

    I Love her books they are amazing I can not wait for the next one to come out! 😀 😀

  • Book Reviews & Giveaway: Fade & Gone by Lisa McMann | The Book Smugglers
    August 2, 2011 at 6:17 am

    […] Fade picks up where Wake leaves off, following Janie and Cabel as they delve headfirst into another undercover sting at […]

  • Anonymous
    October 4, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Does anybody know the first six main events in order? For the book Gone

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