From an outsider’s perspective, Awoken seems to be the step taken too far in the universe of young adult supernatural novels. But what appears to be a bizarre take on the trope is rather a parody so subtle many have taken it for the real deal. The author is not in fact ‘Serra Elisen’, but rather Nostalgia Chick’s Lindsay Ellis, along with her best friends and co-stars of her series Antonella Inserra and Elisa Hansen, and their viewers. In their own words, the aim was to “crowd-source” the next paranormal YA book. The project was documented as a web series and can be found on chezapocalypse.com as ‘Fifty Shades of Green’, which I highly recommend to accompany your reading.
Having always been a huge fan of Lindsay’s, I was excited when the project was announced and watched the series devotedly up until the book’s release. It is easier to recognise the inside jokes and other gems mentioned in the video series regarding the novel, but nonetheless the book is more often than not so ridiculous and over the top that it should be obvious that it is not to be taken seriously. Consistently, Lindsay and co. assured they did not want to write an outright parody, such as Harvard Lampoon’s Nightlight; instead choosing to penetrate the genre covertly by following tropes and patterns. These include: the main character being the most boring part of the story, the plot not coming in till later, the convenient token “ethnic” friend and a love interest that is a borderline stalker.
For someone who are familiar with the genre, it’s a joy to read something tackling the problematic tropes by laying them out in the open, where many authors have painted things like an overly controlling boyfriend as “thoughtful” and “romantic”.
There isn’t much to say about the plot and in all honesty this was probably done on purpose; it’s a satirical piece more than a ‘story’. The plot itself doesn’t kick in until practically the third act. That being said, the narrative is most definitely more thought out than it had to be in places, particularly regarding tying in H.P. Lovecraft’s mythology on Cthulhu to a place where it truly does not belong. In short, the book follows Andi Slate, your typical ‘ordinary’ teenage girl in a small town in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Her town is boring until the mysterious Riley moves in. Who is he? Why is he obsessed with her? And more importantly, why did she dream about him saving her from a green, tentacle monster last night? The premise itself seems standard but, like Riley himself, there is much more than what meets the eye.
Awoken is a book for anyone who has read enough paranormal romance novels to know the ins and outs of the genre. It’s a book for people who are sick of reading the same book just with a different gimmick, and want to hear people cleverly call out lazy writing when they see it. Along with that, a potential sequel has been hinted at, so catch up before the new web series comes out!