This review is brought to you as part of the Virtual Book Tour for Awakening, hosted by YA Bound Book Tours.

Awakening was written by Shannon Duffy and first published in 2015. It is a science fiction novel set in a dystopian future where the government controls every aspect of peoples’ lives. The story reads as though it is the first part of a series but at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Desiree is one of the lucky ones in her society. She is a Six – born on a Friday – and so knows that she’ll be allowed to live a full forty-five years. It is much better than the unfortunate Ones who are only allowed to live until they are twenty-five. She has grown up believing that the Protectorate’s strict rules are necessary – governing every aspect of her life to ensure that she never suffers. They even control her sleep, using sensors implanted in her at birth to control how long she sleeps and ensure that she only has good dreams.

Yet as her sixteen birthday passes, she has begun to have her doubts. The Protectorate determined that her ideal mate is Asher, the bully that tormented her throughout her childhood. She knows the Protectorate cannot have made a mistake but the decision gnaws at her. Asher does not even seem to love her so how can he be destined to become her husband?

Her confusion grows when she finds Darian One hiding in her room one night. Darien was once her childhood friend but was imprisoned for life in the nightmarish Terrorscape. Darien is only looking for a place to sleep yet he shares with her a shocking truth. The Protectorate is not what they seem and framed him for the murder of his parents. Now that she has evidence that the government is corrupt, Desiree must make a terrible choice. Does she accept Asher and continue as she has been or does she take her destiny into her own hands and escape the Protectorate before it is too late?

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It’s very rare that a novel grips me from its opening chapter. I’m the sort of person who usually needs to ease into a story and get a feel of its characters before I make my mind up on whether or not I like them. Awakening is one of those rare stories that just captivate me from the word go and felt almost impossible to put down until the last page.

The setting of the novel is absolutely excellent, coming across as a kind of merging of Brave New World and Logan’s Run. I am a really big fan of dystopian science fiction and, for me, the mark of a good dystopian regime is one where I can fully understand how they came about. The logic behind Duffy’s Protectorate made perfect sense for me.

They portrayed themselves as a perfect utilitarian regime – one where the populous all accepted that certain sacrifices were necessary in order to maintain the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Virtually everyone buys into this system, blind to the underlying corruption, as they believe that allowing the government to control every aspects of their lives is the best way to ensure that they can live comfortably. Death days and births are regulated to ensure that population never grows too large, sleep is controlled to ensure everyone is always well rested and people are matched with the correct partners and jobs to ensure that they are never unhappy. The system works because everyone believes in it. Apart from, of course, the people who don’t.

As Desiree comes to find that people she knows and loves are classified as Noncompliant by the Protectorate, she is forced to re-valuate her view on the world and the cracks begin to show. The Protectorate becomes a manipulative force and the lengths that they go to keep the peace are truly frightening. Beneath the “perfection” is nothing but darkness: snatched children and erased memories. As the novel progresses, the Protectorate just grows more and more frightening leading up to a final reveal that is nothing short of vile. I’m being deliberately vague here because spoiling it for you would ruin the impact of the ending but I will just say that it is shocking and utterly unforgettable.

I really can’t fault the structure of the story in any way. While there is a little exposition, particularly towards the start, Duffy’s writing is largely smooth and eases the reader gently into Desiree’s world. The text is not overly descriptive but as the novel progressed, the reader gradually comes to understand the varying concepts and how the Dreamscape and Terrorscape both play a major role in the everyday life of the characters. The story presents some concepts and difficult themes, primarily regarding conformity and the importance of taking responsibility for our own decisions, in a way that is easily accessible to the reader.

Desiree is an incredibly relatable protagonist and I found myself immediately attached to her. The conflict that she felt as she discovered that everything that she had believed was a lie was compelling and I really did feel for her as she was forced towards an arrange marriage with Asher through a sense of duty rather than love. I truly loved how she developed throughout the story, transforming from a slightly dissatisfied conformant to a Noncompliant rebel. Throughout the book, every decision that she took made sense in the context and I could really feel her doubt as she was forced to question sixteen years of conditioning.

Unfortunately, I did not have the same attachment to Darian. My problem with him only started towards the climax of the story and it was purely his reluctance to let Desiree do anything. The novel establishes early on that Desiree has combat training but Darian never gives her a chance to use it. He insists on “protecting” her every step of the way, referring to her repeatedly as “my girl”. Unfortunately, male protagonists like this really grate my nerves. The idea of the protective alpha male is really out-dated and I am a little tired of reading it now as it pops up in so many young adult novels.

I should also probably note that while Desiree and Darian are very well fleshed out, the same can’t be said for some of the secondary characters. This novel has a rather large cast and not all of them get a lot of page time. Both Asher and Laken (a friend of Desiree) seemed important towards the beginning but escaped mention for large chunks of a novel, which was a shame as I would have liked to have seen more people react to Desiree’s changing attitude. Worst still was Sage, Desiree’s supposed best friend, who I think appears all of twice and then disappears into the ether and is never spoken of again.

Anyhow, I really don’t have a lot to critique with regards to this novel and so I’m going to wrap up. Awakening is an excellent novel which presents a gripping story and well thought out dystopian regime. The protagonists are relatable and grow notably over the course of the story and my only real issue with the novel is the lack of time that is spent developing the secondary cast. All in all, this is certainly a novel that I would recommend to everyone.

Awakening can be purchased as a Hardback and eBook on

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  1. Trackback: The Sobeks – Part 2 | Arkham Reviews

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