Modern Day Becomes Legend in this Dystopian
Awaken by Michelle Bryan is the story of a young woman, just turned 18 living in a world after “The Shift.” The land is like a desert, nothing grows, water and food are scarce, and to her there is just her small community. But on her “born day,” tragedy strikes in the form of iron monsters killing all the adults and taking all the young’uns except Tara who was hidden by her Gra’da before the attacks. Now it is up to her to find what’s left of her kin.
The characters in this story are brilliant. I loved Tara and her way of speaking. She is blunt and straight to the point, no beating around the bush, just straight-up honesty. Tara is a strong-willed (stubborn) character. She is a perfect cross between Katniss Everdeen and Rogue from X-men, in fact while reading that is what I pictured. Tara is even stubborn as she learns about being a “New Blood” or what she calls a mutie, but this endeared her to me even more. She is a relatable character especially as she learns that not all she’s been told growing up in her small community is true.
The other characters she meets along the way – Finn, Tater, and Jax – I also adore. Finn is a boy around 12 with a “demon cat” as a pet who’s community is destroyed the same as Tara’s. He’s high-spirited, inquisitive, and daring. Once he learns that Tara is out to find her kin, he argues to tag along. Tater is a middle-aged, “half-man” trader who comes upon the two one night in the dead woods and decides to take them with him to Littlepass. He is funny and knowledgable about the world outside Tara’s community, but I wasn’t too sure if I could trust him. Jax joins their party after they’ve been captured by Raiders. He is closer to Tara’s age and provides a bit of a love interest. This is not your typical YA romance you see in most books today which is refreshing. It’s subtle and I enjoyed that.
The world building is amazing. Imagine a world that is so far into the future that cars, technology, everything that makes us modern today is folk tale and legend to Tara. It was incredible! The Iron Bones chapter is amazing to me, seeing the ruins of a city through the eyes of someone who has never seen the buildings before, such a great feat for an author to describe. I loved it!
After the intense action of the initial chapter, the story unfolds rather slowly. For me, that initial hook of Tara seeing her community destroyed by the metal monsters set the tone for a fast paced plot. That isn't the case. It takes time for Tara to grieve and move through an unknown world before the pace picks back up. Not that I didn't still enjoy it, but I personally wanted the pacing to go a little faster which I got when I hit the halfway mark. The action and addition of a few characters captured my attention, and I didn't sit it down until I had finished the book!
If I was not told, I would never have known that this was Michelle Bryan‘s first novel. Little to no grammar issues that I found, the characters were well-developed, the world-building is amazing, and she left me wanting more! I have so many questions, the biggest being what was the Shift that caused this dystopian universe. If you enjoy YA dystopian with some sci-fi/fantasy thrown into the mix, you should really get a copy of this book. I personally can’t wait for book two!
-Tara is a stubborn, but highly likable character