The book I’m reviewing today is IF I WAKE by Nikki Moyes. This was her debut novel, released in 2016, and it’s a really impressive debut.
IF I WAKE is a powerful tale of a bullied teen in High School, Lucy. Her favourite class at school is History, but even there she isn’t safe from being ridiculed and bullied by the other students. Lucy gets little sympathy or support from her stressed single mother, who herself is lonely and is fighting her own battles.
Lucy’s only happy place in her dreams. Every year since the disaster of her eleventh birthday party, Lucy’s dreams have taken her to the past. Each time a different location, a different century, but there is always one constant. Will. Actually, there are two constants. The second one is that she only wakes up in the real world after she dies in her dreams. Despite the constant dangers in these dreams, because of her constant and unquestioned friendship with Will, her acceptance by his family, she much prefers the dreams over her lonely and friendless life.
Things go from bad to worse for Lucy when her mum gets a new boyfriend, Frank. Not only has the bullying at school got worse, but now she feels unwelcome in her own home. It seems like an unendurable eternity before her upcoming seventeenth birthday, her next chance to visit Will. Something has to break, and in the end, it’s Lucy. Against all these struggles, without a friend in the world, her thought turn to suicide. But she doesn’t want to leave without seeing her only friend one last time.
There’s a lot of really good things about this book; it’s powerful, it’s accessible, it’s written well. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of time travel stories where the characters go back in time. This is because they are very predictable, people meet Napoleon, kill Hitler, help some American president. blah blah blah. But this book handles it very differently, which I appreciated. Lucy finds different incarnations of Will; Wu, Walker, Villius, Wilhelm, William, Billy and Willis. They are regular people, struggling with the dangers of their time, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it.
As previously mentioned, each of Lucy’s dreams ends when she dies in the dream. In one of those dreams, Lucy was killed when a military base was attacked in an air raid, and after that dream, Lucy was afraid of aeroplanes. I really liked that element, yet at the same time I was disappointed, because that hadn’t happened before. In a previous dream, Lucy died after being bitten by a snake, but there wasn’t any mention of her becoming afraid of snakes after that. It’s only a minor criticism, but I would have liked it if she brought something like that back from each dream.
All in all though, I really enjoyed IF I WAKE and thing it’s a really good debut! I am looking forward to reading Moyes’ upcoming novel THE DESTROYER – hopefully that will be released soon!
To find out more about what Nikki is up to, find her on twitter @NikkiNovelist, or her FB author page here.
Thanks for reading!
- Originally published March 2019