Title: Wake Unto Me
Author: Lisa Cach
Length: 307 pages
My star rating: ★ ★ ★
Note: This review is (relatively) spoiler-free. I have included some hidden spoilers in my Goodreads review.
Wake Unto Me is the story of fifteen-year-old Caitlyn Monahan, who has strange and frightening dreams, few friends, and a propensity for art. She doesn’t feel like she fits into her Oregon small town, so when she’s offered a full scholarship at the mysterious Fortune School in France, she happily takes it. There, her dreams become more vivid than ever and lead her to a young Italian man called Raphael and a centuries-old mystery involving the Knights Templar and possible witchcraft.
That sounds ambitious but fairly promising premise.
I like boarding school stories, ghost stories, and time travel stories, so this book definitely intrigued me. In the end, I did like it, though I think some elements needed more thought or at least more explanation, particularly towards the end of the novel.
In short, this book probably needed five hundred pages instead of three hundred. By the time Caitlyn starts figuring things out, everything moves so quickly that it stops making any sense and feels very rushed and poorly-explained.
There’s also insta-love, but isn’t that almost a given in YA these days?
Caitlyn and her friends—particularly Naomi—were the most interesting and well-drawn characters. Caitlyn could’ve used a bit more development, but she did have some personality and I gave her the benefit of the doubt; she was fifteen. She had a lot of room to grow. I also empathized with her quite a bit—I’m sure I was an unhappy, moody kid at fifteen, too, and my foreign language skills were (and are) quite dismal. I particularly liked how Lisa Cach described her dread of being suddenly dumped into a new environment where she knew no one. That was very much my experience during my first few months in college.
Unfortunately, Caitlyn’s love story isn’t done very well (maybe at fifteen you do fall head-over-heels in love with the first handsome man of your dreams—literally in this case—that you met, but I wouldn’t know), and Raphael wasn’t particularly interesting as a character, either. He had much less personality than she did. Their whole relationship is conceptually similar to the webcomic The Dreamer, but that’s much more drawn-out and, therefore, better overall.
Watching them work together (however briefly) to make sense of the Templar mystery was more interesting, but again, it felt rushed. Ms. Cach would’ve been better served by drawing the whole thing out a bit, the love story included.
The story kind of fell apart for me in the last fifty pages. There were a lot of generally “WTF” moments, and it was hampered by both the poor pacing and the underdeveloped love story. I really wanted to smack Caitlyn and say, “Get yourself together!” Maybe some antidepressants would actually have helped her.
Then the last two chapters happened, and they were so predictable and laughably unbelievable at the same time that I felt a little cheated.
I don’t know how interested I was (or am) in the Knights Templar, but Ms. Cach ought to have spent more time building up the mystery—she did a good job of that in the first hundred and fifty pages or so—and less having Caitlyn moon over Raphael. She had some interesting potential for a truly eerie and mysterious, if slightly clichéd, story with the Sisterhood/Bianca de’ Medici elements, but they were, I felt, sorely underused. I had more questions than answers in the end.
Overall, Wake Unto Me is a solid three-star book and not a bad or unenjoyable read, but it should’ve been longer, better-explained, and probably revised a couple of times. And if I were writing the story, I probably would’ve made Caitlyn at least sixteen or seventeen as well.