“Awakening” by Karen Sandler

“Awakening” by Karen SandlerAwakening by Karen Sandler
Series: Tankborn #2
Published: 2013 by Tu Books
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Giveaway
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Kayla is a GEN, short for Genetically Engineered Nonhuman.  The GENs were engineered by the higher classes to do manual labor and are basically cyborg slaves.  Kayla has been given the opportunity for a treatment that would dissolve her circuitry and let her pass as a member of a lower caste, but she’s turned it down repeatedly in favor of others who she feels need it more than she does.  Instead, she continues her work in the underground resistance that’s dedicated to helping the GEN.  But then mysterious bombings start occurring throughout the city around warehouses.  Near each of the bombings, Kayla reads the phrase “Freedom. Humanity. Equality.” written on a wall.

Awakening definitely feels like a book two, and I didn’t feel as hooked as I did while reading Tankborn.  It’s not that it’s a bad book, but rather that the first book was so strong that this one feels like a placeholder.  Here are some of the elements of the story that stood out to me the most, both good and bad:

  • I didn’t like the way that Kayla and Devak’s relationship is progressing.  Devak is pulling away from Kayla and won’t accept her for who she is.  He can’t see past the fact that she’s a GEN, and even if she were to pass as a lowborn, he cares so much about his standing in society that he won’t take the fall to be with her.  I think Kayla deserves better.  She needs someone who sees her for who she is, not what she is.
  • I did enjoy the fact that Kayla starts to come to terms with the fact that she likes being a GEN.  Not the social constraints that go with it, but she’s realizing that as a GEN she has an identity that’s more than just a slave.  Kayla starts to realize that she doesn’t *want* to give up her circuitry and the enhanced abilities that come with it, and that’s a good thing.  She shouldn’t have to change her very identity to be treated like a person.
  • I was also intrigued by Kayla’s growing disillusionment within the resistance.  At first, working with them seems like a wonderful opportunity, but then as the story progresses Kayla starts to see that even within the resistance the GEN still aren’t treated like equals.  The resistance wants them to be free, but doesn’t consider them to be the same as everybody else, and even within the organization, one’s social class determines one’s influence.

All-in-all, I like the idea of Awakening more than the execution.  I love the fact that there’s a young adult series that’s built around issues such as race and class, but I felt as if this book ought to have been stronger.  I do plan on continuing the series, and I look forward to reading Rebellion.

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4 comments

  1. It is sometimes hard with second books, or films, in a story arc if you don’t have that next one already lined up to go to because so often that middle act feels just like that, and doesn’t have that satisfying beginning, middle, and somewhat end that first books/films often have. Oddly enough I often end up liking that middle section the most, but that is when taken as a whole.

    1. Especially with young adult novels, but with SF/F in general, I often feel that I’d rather read one longer book than a series of three when the divisions between them feel forced, that way the middle could blend seamlessly into the overall experience.

      1. I also go back and forth with choosing or not choosing to read books that I know are going to be a part of a trilogy until all the books are out. It seems pretty random, to be honest, but it also seems to depend on how fast or slow the author has been about putting out books. I feel less risk with Sanderson, as an example, because he seems to be an author with a steady output. Martin, however, takes forever.