– SPOILER FREE REVIEW –
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Title: We Awaken
Author: Calista Lynne
Genre: LGBTQIA+, Romance, Fantasy
Release date: July 14th, 2016
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Victoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual.
But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price.
What got me into reading We Awaken was the prospect of LGBTQIA+ representation and for that it delivered. The topic of asexuality was handled well and for people who are not aware of its existence or have questions about it, it’s a great start. Sadly, the rest of the book felt like a sketch that was never fully developed. There were some great ideas, but I found myself constantly wishing for more depth for each of them.
This book is equal parts contemporary and fantasy, but the two never find a way to work together smoothly. I think that was because we only got to scratch the surface of the many themes that were included in the novel. On one side we have Victoria dealing with the loss of her father, her brother in a coma, the strain in the relationship with her mother, and an important ballet audition to get into dream school. These all play a part in the story, and yet I felt like they didn’t really matter because the focus relied heavily on the romantic plot. The dream world was a bridge between Victoria and Ashlinn, but it wasn’t a fully developed fantasy setting. Victoria questioning and discovering her sexuality was the only idea that was thoroughly dealt with in the novel and that was what I enjoyed the most. My only complaint would be how bluntly asexuality was incorporated into the prose, it felt a bit like info dumping. Because this story is about Victoria’s self-discovery, the overall events where underwhelming. The writing, though, is really nice and easy to read. I really loved the descriptions of Ashlinn and the dreams.
As for the characters, I think they also lacked depth, especially Ashlinn. She had no personality whatsoever and she felt like an asexuality teacher. Because of that and the insta-love, the romance between her and Victoria fell flat for me. Victoria also lacked something for me and I think the problem was that where story failed, so did her character. For example, she worried more about Ashlinn than her own brother and mother because the focus was on the romance, making her seem unconcerned about her family. Lastly, there’s Ellie, Victoria’s best friend. She was probably the most distinct character and sadly I disliked her very much. She never really respected the relationship between Victoria and Ashlinn nor Victoria’s sexuality, though she seemed to by trying.
Overall, the ideas and themes behind this book were intriguing, but the execution wasn’t the best. Still, I truly enjoyed the representation of asexuality, so if you are interested in that, I would say to give it a go.