Let me just put it out there: yes, the book is set at a beach in summer and yes, I did read it in the depths of winter. I don’t entirely know why I did this, but it happened. Maybe I’d have enjoyed the story more if I’d picked it up on my summer holiday, but as it was I wasn’t particularly taken with it, and I’m not sure a change of setting would have helped much.
I did really like the strong sibling relationship between the two main characters – sisters Harper and Gemma. Also, the interactions with their father were enjoyable; it was nice to see strong family bonds portrayed alongside all the romance. I would say that I found Harper easier to connect with – she’s a practical and responsible character who seemed to have the most level head. Then there was her friendship/flirtation/romance with Daniel. They felt like a good match; I believed in the spark Hocking created between them and I liked Daniel as a character in his own right. Gemma had an equally distinctive personality, but suffered at first from the ‘rebellious teen’ stereotype, although I think her determination won me over in the end. And I cannot stress this next point enough: NEITHER GIRL IS IN A LOVE TRIANGLE!
It’s a miracle.
Now for the villains. Penn, Thea and Lexi are, as humans, the most stereotypical clichés you will ever read about. However, their backstories were significantly more interesting and appealed to the mythology lover in me, and when things heat up and the truth about them is revealed, they make truly terrifying antagonists. What I would say is that I wanted more of their pasts, especially Thea, who intrigued me more than the others because I couldn’t get a read on her.
The main problem with this book is the fact that the whole thing just felt like a bit of a nonentity. There was nothing to object to per se, but its lack of negatives doesn’t necessarily make it good. There was very little substance to it. The first half of the book was slow to get going and was mostly just straight up romance. To be fair, it was pretty cute romance, but there was absolutely no depth to it. It was set up quickly so that some more interesting stuff can happen later, except then we were stuck with it for ages without it really going anywhere. What was almost worse was that the second half of the book had potential which was never quite lived up to. We could have had a genuinely interesting story about our characters coming to terms with everything that was happening, but no. It took only a handful of chapters before we had most of the answers, and the final ‘twist’ was excruciatingly predictable. There was no mystery, and the ‘should I/shouldn’t I’ theme was dull and repetitive, and that made the pacing drag terribly. Everything about the plot of this novel was laid out in a very clear straight line, which made it impossible to get invested in the story because there was no suspense, tension or anything to rouse my curiosity.
The character of the girls’ mother also surprised me. We learn that she has a traumatic brain injury, but she was presented as little more than a misbehaving teenager which felt very odd to me. I am well aware that I’m no expert in this sort of stuff, but I thought that the whole thing was an oversimplified representation of her condition that was convenient to the plot. I especially disliked the whole situation with Gemma and her conversation with her mother when she sought advice. The mother’s reaction was treated too much like a joke for my liking with everyone just thinking she was deluded. Neither Gemma nor the author appeared to have thought things through at this point.
On a similar note, we never got an explanation for why Gemma didn’t tell someone else in her family what was happening to her. I vaguely remember a throwaway line about them not believing her if she tried, but it’s not like it’d be something that was impossible to prove. She’d just need to jump in the sea and grow a tale for goodness sake! Plus Harper didn’t take much convincing at all by the end of the novel, so I don’t understand the need for an utter lack of communication! My Christmas list this year will definitely open with a request for a novel where everyone shares information with everyone else.
I’d give Wake two stars out of five. The darker take on the siren/mermaid mythology was fresh and interesting to explore, but the writing felt very clunky in places, so it lacked flow, ironically, for a book about the sea. I have the sequel Lullaby already (I bought it before I even owned the first one) so I will continue with the series, but I cannot picture myself going any further than book two unless the plot is something spectacular.