Thank you to Netgalley and Harmony Ink Press for the ARC!
Victoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual.
But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price.
It’s going to be a bit difficult for me to review this book. I wish I could give it five stars and scream about it to everyone in my immediate vicinity, because it has so many things I love–beautiful prose, girl friendship, mysterious and unusual worldbuilding, and of course, f/f romance with well-written asexual representation. We Awaken had all the pieces I wanted to see, and I really wish it had gone through another round or two of editing–something to make the pieces come together more fluidly.
We Awaken is about Victoria Dinham, a dancer whose father recently died in a car accident and whose brother is in a coma. One night, she dreams about a beautiful girl who creates good dreams and claims to have a message from her brother. You can guess where the story goes from there. She falls in love, learns about asexuality, reconnects with her former best friend, and comes to terms with what happened to her family.
Ultimately, We Awaken was enjoyable, but left me feeling like something was missing. The romance was cute, and the asexual representation was amazing, but so much about the characters and the world could have been fleshed out and wasn’t. While I would still recommend this book, I feel that it did not live up to its potential.
I really wish all the characters had more depth. Victoria was a pretty well-developed character. Ashlinn had hints of things that made her interesting, but the narrative utilized her more as a love interest and a way for Victoria to learn about asexuality than as a character in her own right. Victoria’s family and friends are pretty much tropes (though her best friend, Ellie, was at least an enjoyable one).
Victoria and Ashlinn’s relationship, while adorable, was rushed and very much insta-love. How did they fall in love? What brought them together besides Victoria thinking Ashlinn was pretty and a couple of lines of flirting? Who knows?
The world was underdeveloped as well, and it made me grit my teeth in frustration because anything dream-related is fascinating to me. I wanted to know more about Ashlinn’s history, and about her counterpart who creates nightmares, and whether there are others like them. (Because really, Ashlinn is only one person, and unless something timey-wimey is going on, which the novel did not imply, there’s no way for her to visit everyone’s dreams every night). (I know that’s exactly the type of thing I need to suspend my disbelief on, but it bothered me). The ending, too, was very anti-climactic–very much a case of “let’s resolve that troublesome plot so they can cuddle!”)
My favorite thing about the book was the portrayal of asexuality. While it felt a little info-dump-y at times, it was still great to see a character go through pretty much the same process I went through a couple of years ago. Both Victoria and Ashlinn are asexual, and one thing I appreciated was that they both experience asexuality differently–for example, Ashlinn likes kissing and Victoria doesn’t. The narrative makes it clear that there is no one way to be asexual–everyone’s experience is different. Victoria and Ashlinn’s relationship also exemplified how it was possible to be intimate without being sexual.
While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the dialogue (which I found extremely clunky and forced), the actual descriptive prose was beautiful. Victoria’s thought process, the running theme of permanence and lack thereof, and the images of the dreams Ashlinn creates were perfectly illustrated.
Because I always have a weakness for things like this, I loved Victoria reconnecting with her friend Ellie. They had a fun dynamic, and I liked that they were both good friends in some ways but lacking in others, and balanced each other out. Ellie’s reaction to Victoria being asexual–both the initial response and how it changed later–was also very realistically written.
I had my problems with this book, but in the end, it’s an enjoyable, fluffy story that provides some much-needed asexual representation. Definitely give it a look if you have the chance.