Summary of Awake:
Alex loves science, especially studying rocks. She enjoys spending her summers working at the Gem and Mineral Museum where she feels in control and comfortable. The summer before she leaves for college, her equilibrium is thrown off when Luke, her high school’s heart throb (and her former best friend), takes a job at the museum too. What's more, Alex is thrust into an unexpected magical adventure when some ancient artifacts show up at the museum—one of which is an 800 year old bed with a princess sleeping on it! Clueless about fairy tales, she teams up with a co-worker and the awakened princess to unravel the mystery and break the curse. Together, they find they have an unlikely bond. Reluctantly, Alex learns about the magic that resides within her, the importance of friendship, and the power of true love.
Author Jessica Grey has woven together a distinctive and unpredictable retelling of “Sleeping Beauty.” There is an interesting dichotomy between the magical, fairy tale world and the real, modern world. The fairy tale setting is portrayed as “real” with a seamless blend of fairies and magic in the natural world. Then, there is the modern world with a hidden magic below the surface of constant busyness and sterile technology. Finally, there is a fairy realm where magic is still strong.
Another unique aspect is the characterization. The female characters are strong, smart, and heroic which contrasts sharply with the traditional retelling where the prince embodies those character qualities. Alex does not define herself by the “prince” or other men. Instead, she is independently forging her own path. During the story, she finds strength in her female friendships and eventually in true love based on friendship and respect. I like that Alex is not perfect and popular. She is the intelligent, nerdy girl. The downside is that she sometimes downplays her abilities and appearance too much. She severely lacks confidence in herself, particularly early in the novel. This situation does remedy itself for the most part.
There are lots of twists, turns, and unexpected events in Awake, making it an enjoyable and engaging read. I recommend this book for ages 10 and up.