Friday, January 6, 2023

Review: Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

by Megan Goldin
Release Date: August 9, 2022
2022 St. Martin's Press
Kindle Edition; 340 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250280664
Audiobook: B09GH25Z67
Genre: Fiction / Mystery Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? 
My Thoughts
Stay Awake had a premise that was definitely entertaining as well as intriguing; a woman wakes up in a taxi with no idea who she is, how she got there, and in her possession is a bloodstained knife. Definitely got my attention.  And then she notices she has written notes to herself on her hands to "Stay Awake", all very cryptic. So, definitely an interesting start to a novel, and my brain was already heading in a million different directions (I definitely read too much horror, fantasy, and science-fiction) as what happened didn't quite conclude the way that I thought. Is that a bad thing necessarily? No, not really, but it didn't really deliver either. 

The main character is where the story fell short for me. Most of it revolved around Liv, and while I get that she was terrified and afraid to trust people, you would think that in those moments when she was capable of writing messages to herself, she would also be able to write messages of whom to trust as well? And maybe tell herself what is going on? At first I was sympathetic to her situation. Who wouldn't? She was confused, scared, missing several years of her life, unsure of what was happening, worried she may have done something awful, and then news comes down the pipe about something awful.  But for someone who was supposed to be so smart, she didn't really ask a lot of questions about what was happening, and after a while, I got tired of her antics and started losing empathy.  And this is also where the plot goes somewhat sideways at the same time.

The plot was pretty intriguing at first as I didn't really know what was going on.  I had my suspicions, but they were way off, again a product of reading too much horror and sci-fi, but we won't go down that road. While Liv was the main character, there were other POV and other timelines involved, and this is where I had a problem due to the repetitiveness of the the story lines. I did enjoy the detective work by Halliday and Lavelle and thought they showed the most sense when it came to the case as they looked at the clues rather closely and followed up on them.  Out of all the people in the story, they seemed to be the only ones to actually ask anything that was relevant, and I don't recall rolling my eyes once during their scenes.  Oh, and thank goodness there was no romance between the detectives.  

I did think the pace was a bit disjointed, especially towards the middle half of the book, and I wasn't a big fan of the conclusion, but I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I had little sympathy for the main character by that point. I also thought the killer's motivation was a bit on the thin side.

Stay Awake was both intriguing and frustrating. I did find the premise compelling and I was rooting for Liv despite wanting to bash my head against the wall anytime she made a poor decision.  The story line was somewhat repetitive, with Liv just doing the same thing over and over again, and many of the secondary characters were poorly developed, none of whom asked questions or seemed to want to help Liv with her situation.  Overall, there was a lot that was commendable and I was definitely glued to the book for the first half so I can see why this author is so popular. Unfortunately, the book did lose me halfway through, and I had to push to finish it to a somewhat disappointing ending.  That being said, there was enough of interest in it to make me want to read another book by this author.