Friday, May 16, 2014

Teen/YA Review: Loud Awake and Lost

I listened to Loud Awake and Lost by Adele Griffin on audio and was spellbound by the quiet but emotionally powerful story of a young girl with a traumatic brain injury who is struggling to recover her memory.

As the novel opens, 17-year old Ember is finally leaving the rehab facility where she spent eight months after a horrible car crash. Not only does Ember not remember the accident itself, but she also has no memory of the six weeks leading up to it. She knows that her passenger – a boy her age named Anthony – died in the crash, but she has no idea who he is or why he was riding with her, a long way from home.

Ember is welcomed home by her loving but worried parents and her longtime best friend, Rachel. Even these people closest to her don’t seem to know much about what Ember was doing in the weeks before the crash or the circumstances of the accident itself. To add to the mystery, as Ember resumes her old life, she keeps encountering things that feel vaguely familiar and people who seem to know her that she has no memory of. There are girls who act as if Ember is a close friend, places she doesn’t remember that seem to have played a big role in her pre-crash life, and mysterious graffiti symbols all over the area that tug at her damaged brain.

Her family and old friends are glad to have Ember back, and even her old boyfriend is back in her life, but Ember knows she is missing some key pieces of information, parts of her old life that she can’t remember and no one else seems to know about. All of the characters here – Ember’s parents, her friends, her old boyfriend – feel real, as they struggle along with Ember. As Ember works hard to strengthen her physically damaged body, her lack of progress with her equally damaged brain frustrates her.

Ember’s story has some elements of suspense and mystery to it, though it is not an action-packed book. Instead, the action takes place in Ember’s head, as she tries desperately to remember what she’s lost and recover that part of her life again. I really enjoyed this engrossing, emotional novel. And when Ember finally makes an unexpected discovery about both her past and her present, I was taken entirely by surprise. The audio production was excellent, with reader Abby Craden doing a great job with all the different characters. Loud Awake and Lost is not just about recovery but also about growth and change, something that all teens (and adults, too!) can relate to.

Random House Audio/Listening Library

Listen to an excerpt: 

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