The Daily Monocle

Critical book reviews from a literary skeptic.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Those That Wake by Jesse Karp

Posted by J. P. Wickwire

And hope is just a dream of those that wake - Matthew Prior

16 year old Mal grew up in the foster care system, fighting his way through life. But when he receives a distressing phone call from his estranged older brother, Tommy, Mal decides to take his future into his own hands. Upon arriving at his brother’s apartment, Mal has no choice than pursue the sinister path his brother did...and finds out that Tommy has mysteriously vanished.

That same day, in another part of the city, teenager Lena comes home from an interview gone wrong, to find her parents with no recollection of ever having a daughter. And her school doesn’t have any records of her either. It seems that Lena has been completely forgotten.

So begins Those That Wake, a YA psycho-thriller by debut author Jesse Karp. Part neo-zombie novel, part conspiracy theory, Those That Wake is an exciting foray into genuinely frightening teen literature. And with the YA market being overrun with dystopian romances, books like this one stand out with their sheer originality.

The plot itself is unpredictable--a rare feat in YA lit today. In part one, every chapter introduces a new character, which not only keeps us readers mentally involved, but keeps the story fresh while Karp establishes his writing style. In part two, Those That Wake becomes surreal and unwaking; and by part three, the story has snowballed completely out of the reader’s control.

Those That Wake is just disturbing enough to get under the skin of its audience. In the vein of all worthy urban legends, Those That Wake calls forth the fear of all children (that they’re parents will forget them), and the foreboding of a conspiracy theory (specifically The New World Order conspiracy). Karp has managed to create a story that’s just dead creepy. It isn’t gory, and the author doesn’t resort to amateur scare tactics. But it’s scary nonetheless.

The character are flawed and three-dimensional. Lena at times seems a little shallow, but she evens out. Mal is fully fleshed-out and accessible to the reader. Impressively, even the minor characters are well-written--another rarity in the teen literature market.

Karp’s writing is striking, never sacrificing style for content (or vice versa).With deft use of subtle repetition, and offbeat descriptions, Karp constructs a story that stands on the head of a pin; a story that would not work if written in a different style.

My biggest complaint here is the ever-present too much telling, not enough showing of first-time authors. That being said, Karp seems to hit his stride after about a hundred pages, and the problem slowly dissipates.

The more books I read, the more easily I find myself absorbed in other people’s realities. And let me tell you, Those That Wake is a scary reality to get stuck in. Suspenseful and psychologically unhinged, this remarkable debut novel is a beautiful stand-alone piece, but still remains open for a sequel. Jesse Karp is definitely an author to watch.

Amazon

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