Intro to Contemporary YA: Wild Awake by Hillary T. Smith

Since this whole class is optional, you can choose to participate (or not) whenever you wish.

However, if you choose to participate, we want to make clear our expectations for that participation.

  • Realize that you should have the book read before you read through the comments. Spoilers will likely appear in the conversations, so please do not be surprised or angry if this happens.

  • Bring reader questions and observations about the text. We will throw our own questions and observations out for you to consider,  but your questions and observations are as important and necessary in this as ours.

  • Please abide by the Thumper Rule when interacting with others:

  • Back up what you’re asking or saying with quotes and page numbers so that we can all follow along.

  • Think about and share possible thematic text connections (classics, YA lit, picture books, poetry, non fiction texts, news stories, movies, YouTube videos). This will be especially helpful information for the teachers among  us, but it’s good thinking for all of us.

Some additional housekeeping thoughts:

  • Please try to respond to be careful about responding to comments – keep main threads together, but try not to get where it is so indented that no one can read what you’re posting!
  • Also consider clicking “Notify me of follow-up comments via email.” when you post a comment. This will keep you informed of continued discussion without having to come back at random intervals to see if there is anything new.
  • Consider introducing yourself briefly in your first post and including a link for your blog if you have one.

ONE FINAL WARNING:

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS DISCUSSION!

DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK!

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About CBethM

I'm a book lover and technology geek who happens to also be a high school English teacher, National Writing Project teacher consultant, and certified school librarian. The opinions I offer here are reflective of my thoughts and opinions and not that of my employer, family, or friends.
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13 Responses to Intro to Contemporary YA: Wild Awake by Hillary T. Smith

  1. I’d love to know what others think of the writing in Wild Awake, along with how Hilary T. Smith handled mental illness. I’m looking forward to handing this to my students this fall so I can hear their thoughts. I have a feeling/hope that they’ll come back with favorite lines and quotes. I’m also thinking this might be a polarizing book; some of my students will love this, while others may not like it at all.

    • CBethM says:

      I’m with you on the polarizing effect this book might have – but it has plenty of opportunity for discussion whether they love it or not. I’m so glad you recommended this book to me!!!

  2. Jen says:

    I couldn’t get ahold of this one at my library in time for the discussion. I do have it on my to-read list now.

  3. Terry says:

    Hmmm. I just binge-read this in one day 🙂 and so I’m trying to organize my thoughts. This might be a good companion book to Chopsticks, no? Anyway, I *would* like to know what teens think of this book. I would predict some will seem themselves in it for sure–just the pressures and confusions and even yes, the (hormonal) mania of just being a teenager, trying to navigate an identity as a girl, an artist, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend.

    Some of the writing–individual lines, short bursts of description–are quite beautiful. Still, as an adult reader, I kind of wish it had been edited a little bit. It seems to go in one direction for 100 pages and then veer off into the “real” story, and then I wonder, why the long, elaborate set-up? I was also a bit put off by the very casual use of pot in the book, but then I wonder if her self-medicating at the very beginning (I mean, really the beginning–the second sentence of the first page!) is actually a subtle red flag. Perhaps. Still, I feel like the story of unraveling the mystery of Sukey is a really long red herring and by the end of the book, feels rather abandoned.

    • CBethM says:

      I think the elaborate set-up isn’t really a set-up. I think it’s there to show the change in Kiri over time from the dedicated musician, responsible kid to the one who has spun out of control who never sleeps at night. I don’t think that the changes later in the book would seem as pronounced without this for comparison – but also it shows that there is this shift…this change that starts and barely seems to be doing anything at first until it seems to be changing at light speed.
      I think that the use of pot was experimental, total peer pressure to fit in with the boy she has a crush on…at the beginning. After that? I think it’s one of the many markers of her decline. There’s never enough of anything – and her brain is racing far too fast to think through the consequences of her choices. (Who rides a bike with high heeled silver sandals?!)
      I think the story line with Sukey may have been a trigger for the rest of it. And a possible clue as well – it seems like Sukey was plagued by many of the same problems as Kiri herself.
      I love the idea of pairing this up with Chopsticks. I honestly hadn’t thought of that!

      • Terry says:

        Thanks for your reply! It gave me good ways to look at the structure of the book in a different light. I also think this might pair well with Marbles, a graphic-art memoir by Ellen Forney (but it is definitely for older/mature teens). It shares some of the same experience–what a manic episode feels like from the inside, so to speak. I think I mentioned this somewhere else, but I read a teacher’s blog where she had a lot of freedom to design her curriculum, and she organized her reading by “months”, meaning, months like “Mental Health Awareness Month” etc…. these books together would make an interesting book list!

      • CBethM says:

        I’ll have to look for Marbles. Thanks for the rec!
        Organizing curriculum by months would be incredible. Wow. Thank you!

  4. CBethM says:

    I read this book while I was on vacation last week in what was very nearly a single sitting. I have waited to comment in the hopes that I could process some of my thoughts before I shared my thoughts.
    1. This book hits head on with a topic (mental illness) that so touches so many lives but unfortunately still has a stigma that keeps many people from talking about it.
    2. Hilary T. Smith manages to talk about it without having to NAME it because she talks about the beginnings of this change in Kiri. At first its subtle, but then it picks up speed…and unless you are paying attention, you might not realize what’s going on.
    3. I wonder if the “not naming” part will cause people to think something else about Kiri’s character. My life experiences helped me recognize what was going on but I could just as easily see how someone would mistake her actions for something else.
    4. God bless Skunk. As much as he has had to deal with to this point when we meet him, he is a survivor. His part of the story is another thread of narrative in dealing with mental illness – that cyclic frustration with the side effects and abandonment of the meds once everything is going better.
    5. Living with mental illness is certainly a challenge – for everyone. I’ve read few narratives from the protagonist’s point of view that tried to explain what this is like.
    6. I know that I shouldn’t need a sequel to this book – but I want to know what happens next.

    • Terry says:

      I would *LOOOOVEEE* to see a sequel to this book! What a fantastic pair of books that would be to experience. Quick, somebody call up Hilary Smith and let her know we demand a sequel. 😀

  5. Terry says:

    Also, I may be wrong, but isn’t Kiri Asian (I guess, Asian-Canadian..?)? I was idly thinking how many young adult books feature teens of Asian descent and I couldn’t think of too many off the top of my head (other than Amy Tan’s books or American Born Chinese). I work in California so this is also another reason to recommend this book, just for teens to “see themselves” in a text.

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