Author: Lisa Mann
Publisher : Simon and Schuster, Inc, 2008
Audience: Ages 14 – 18. I would suggest that the target audience is older and more mature teens. The main characters are teenagers from families that were drastically impacted and changed by traumatic events. The issues raised in this novel can easily cross all racial and socio-economic lines.
Summary: Wake is a novel that is centered on the “not-so” normal Janie Hannagan. Janie is a typical high school junior whose sights are firmly set on attending college. She works part-time, does well in school and spends time with her friends, as long as they are awake. Janie avoids anyone who is sleeping because she can, against her will, be pulled into the sleeper’s dream. While there, she is fully aware of everything that is going on, including experiencing everything the dreamer does. Outside of the dream, however, her body is paralyzed, blind to anything that is happening around her. The novel takes us through Janie’s struggles to maintain a normal life when everything around her is anything but normal. Once she comes to grip with what makes her different, she begins to accept who she is a little more.
Central literary elements at work in the story: Lisa Mann gives us multiple characters in this novel about whom we want to know more. We have the most background information on Janie, though even that is incomplete. We get a small glimpse of eight year old Janie, as she first learns what she can do; however, the major character development for her is Janie as a teenager who is raising an alcoholic mother. Through Janie’s relationships, we are introduced to Carrie and Cabel, whose stories are made more interesting by the secrets they are keeping. Even the more minor characters of Melinda, Mrs. Hannagan and Miss Stubbins all have secrets, but they are secrets that are not fully revealed as the novel ends. The entire book is written from Janie’s point of view and though it is not written in first-person, it has the feel of a personal narrative. Written in the style of journal entries, we follow Janie from minute to minute, hour to hour, and day to day. Even though we receive a few quick glimpses into the past, the bulk of the novel takes place over a period of one and a half years. Seeing the lives of the characters in what easily begins to feel like real-time makes the events of the book realistic and believable, even the most bizarre elements of the story.
How the book presents gender, race, culture, economic status, age, etc: Though Mann doesn’t seem to tackle race relations with this book, I think it is because the ethnicity of the characters is irrelevant. They could really be anyone from anywhere. Mann does, however, touch, only slightly, on the issues of the elderly, who happen to be Janie’s favorite people to be around because “they don’t sleep soundly”. We get small glimpses into how a family handles the loss of a child, alcoholism and drug abuse, division and prejudices that stem from economic difference and how a young person deals with the possibility of being homosexual. All of these issues are dealt with on a very surface level, some so slightly you might even miss them. It almost seems that any one of these things alone is too heavy to be fully handled alongside the challenge of entering dreams; when all of them occur, it is impossible to address well. What does partner well with the main plot of dream travel are the silent issues of emotional, physical and psychological abuse. I referred to them as silent, because none of them are ever directly mentioned or addressed during the novel, but they all scream off the pages, almost from the very beginning. They are played out in the actions and dialogue mainly between Janie and Cabel, and though neither of them talks about it (other than a small conversation near the end of the book) both characters wear the scars of their abuse. The reader is also given this since that they both want to be anyplace other than where they are.
It also strikes me that the responsible authorities throughout this book, parents, teachers, even Janie’s co-workers and employer are largely absent. They are present in that we hear their voices occasionally, see them in passing even; but they are all emotionally disconnected for the main characters, absent from their lives. Although the parents are often not the primary focus of teen novels, it speaks loudly that the parents in this novel who are around seem to have checked out on their children.
Theological Conversation Partners: One good partner for this novel could be Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Janie spends a lot of time trying to isolate herself from people. However, we see a change in both her and Cabel as they open up to each other, sharing their secrets and relying on one another. This bond begins to be shared with Mrs. Stubbins and Janie as well. But that is a story for another book, Fade, which is the sequel to Wake.
Faith Talk Questions:
- As we enter the dreams with Janie, each dreamer asks Janie for help, regardless of the nature of the dream. What could be the significance of the dreamer unconsciously asking for help?
- Once, Janie enters her mother’s dream. She seems to be aware of this when she wakes and leaves the room. Why for you think this is?
- Believing there are no coincidences, Janie enters Carrie and Cabel’s recurring dreams over and over again. Why is she drawn to these two people and them to her?
- If God gifted you with the ability to travel into people’s dreams, what might your purpose be?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student LaDonna Harrison.