Friday, September 7, 2012

Review: The Waking: Dreams of the Dead by Thomas Randall

Hi all!

Here is a review of a YA horror that got me excited and scared. A great read!

Series: The Waking #1
Release date: 31th of August 2010
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Horror, Suspense, Supernatural, YA
Pages: 276 in Paperback
Source: Bought from the Book Depository

Kara’s afraid to go to sleep until the nightmares come when she’s awake . . . . Sixteen-year-old Kara Foster is an outsider in Japan, but is doing her best to fit at the private school where her father is teaching English for the year. Fortunately she’s befriended by Sakura, a fellow outsider struggling to make sense of her sister’s unsolved murder some months ago. No one seems to care about the beautiful girl who was so brutally murdered, and the other students go on as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, the calm doesn’t last for long. Kara begins to have nightmares, and soon other students in the school turn up dead, viciously attacked by someone . . . or something. Is Sakura getting back at those she thinks are responsible for her sister’s death? Or has her dead sister come back to take revenge for herself?
This first book in a frightening new trilogy will have teens glued the page and scared to go to sleep.

I don’t like creepy hair-raising horror at all; I never read a single book from this genre. And having learned from my first and, hopefully, last encounter with The Ring movie, horror created or set in Japan tends to scare me more senseless than anything else. So why did I pick up this book? Alone the title had me getting goose-bumpy, but having complained that there is not nearly enough YA set in Japan I had to take on the challenge. And I have to admit that while being somewhat jittery during the evenings when reading, this book blew me away (and not under the bed fortunately). It was just that good! 
The setting was very believable for a smaller Japanese town, the atmosphere was masterfully created. All the foreign and Japanese blended together brilliantly with the supernatural and mystical, giving off a feeling of uneasiness, wonder and anticipation. The story delving into the school life, Noh theater, the dynamics between teenagers themselves and their parents wasn’t in your face, but it was subtle, informative and painted an vivid picture of those aspects of the Japanese culture with all the elements coming together to form a realistic and lively background for the story. I can’t praise this story alone for its setting and feel enough.
The author receives extra bonus points for explaining the majority of Japanese culture related words used. I haven’t encountered this a lot, usually, I assume, the authors more or less expect the reader, to some degree, be familiar with the topic or, if not, not to be reading such a book to begin with. Nevertheless, it was a very pleasant surprise to have words like fuku, bento, uwabaki, o-soji, etc, defined even though it wasn’t entirely new to me.
I do, however, have to admit that I would have given this book 5 stars if it wasn’t for the ending which suddenly lost its edge a bit. I would have preferred the situation to remain more unexplainable and not take form as it did. But then again what might bother me for someone else could be trivial.
What I really appreciated in this book is the fact that none of the characters displayed rash or downright silly behavior in a grave situation and I didn’t want to smack my forehead not once. All the reactions, actions, emotions, etc came across natural, realistic and rational. Kara was the perfect example of this. She wasn’t too daring or scared. She wasn’t too tough or vulnerable. She tired to help, to find answers, to do something and not just sit and wait. While she acted mature she was clearly still a teenager in an extraordinary situation and it showed which I found very likeable. In addition, I found Kara’s relationship with her father heartwarming and exemplary of a close bond between a parent and child. Kara’s small budding romance was also quite adorable and sweet in the backdrop of everything sinister going on.
Sakura and Miho were welcoming, friendly and curious friends to Kara. While it was difficult to find acceptance and belonging for Kara as a foreigner, Miho and Sakura weren’t turned off. Both of them having their own issues and fears were a great support for her and they seemed to represent two very opposite sides of Japanese schoolgirls: on one side the rebel all equipped with the appropriate fashion and attitude, and, on the other side, the shy good girl who has a few quirks of her own.
The book had its fare share of cliché characters with the “mean girls” for example, but it all worked in its favor and while they were typical, they were still unique in regard to the setting being out of the ordinary and foreign. Hachiro was so cute and sweet and I found Ren quite interesting and hope to see more of him in the sequel.

My first introduction to horror and suspense YA, not to mention to the genre overall. And what a great acquaintance it was. This is a scary, interesting, exciting and even educational book which I recommend to all who can stomach some terror, are fond of a good mystery and just want to try something new. Believe my, you won’t be disappointed!

4 stars!



  1. Thanks, Liis!
    You review definitely made me want to read the book!

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