Don't Wake Up
It’s extremely rare for me to dislike a book enough to give it an F grade, but everything about Don’t Wake Up, the début novel from author Liz Lawler, rubbed me the wrong way. I was intrigued by the premise, but the story itself fell flat.
On the outside, Alex Taylor’s life is picture perfect. She’s involved with a great guy, and she has quite a few friends she considers her family of choice. She’s very successful at work, so successful in fact that a promotion is likely to be offered to her before the end of the year. She can’t imagine doing anything else aside from working as a doctor, so the promotion is something she’s definitely looking forward to.
Unfortunately, things really aren’t as rosy as they appear. Several months before the story opens, Alex was sexually assaulted, and she’s still dealing with some inner turmoil as a result. Several of her friends have suggested that Alex seek out a therapist to assist her in dealing with the trauma, but Alex isn’t sure that’s what she wants to do. The idea of opening herself up to a mental health professional makes her feel incredibly vulnerable, something she’s not at all comfortable with.
When we first meet Alex, she has just awakened from what she thinks must have been a terrible accident of some kind. She’s strapped to an operating table, and she becomes aware that she’s not alone. A menacing figure looms over her and begins to explain the surgery Alex is about to undergo, and then everything goes black.
When Alex next regains consciousness, she’s in a bustling emergency room and it soon becomes clear no surgery has been performed. She’s told she suffered a nasty fall, but Alex remains convinced that an unknown person performed some sort of operation on her without her consent, but no one she tells seems to be taking her concerns seriously.
As time passes and Alex attempts to resume her normal life, it becomes obvious to the reader that she is steadily losing her grip on reality. She firmly believes that people are out to get her, but she can’t explain why she thinks this. She’s not eating or sleeping well, and her job performance slowly begins to suffer. When her supervisor attempts to talk with her about these things, she grows very angry and decides her boss is in on whatever conspiracy the world has against her.
Don’t Wake Up could have been a stellar story, but I had a lot of trouble taking the plot seriously. For one thing, Alex is one of the most unlikable heroines I’ve come across in recent years. She’s a very troubled individual, but she refuses to do anything to help herself and seems to enjoy wallowing in her misfortune. Her actions don’t make the least bit of sense, even though I tried hard to view them through the lens of mental illness. She’s the kind of character I really did want to empathize with, but I ended up not caring about her at all by the time I finished the book.
Normally, I really love spending time in the mind of a story’s villain, but this particular villain made me roll my eyes in disgust. We’re supposed to believe this person is very dark and dangerous, but I was never able to buy into that. Instead, this person comes off as incredibly immature, someone whose every action overflowed with melodrama. I knew this person meant Alex harm, but the reasons for it were beyond hard to believe.
The story is broken into a ton of very short chapters. Some authors can make this style work for them, but that isn’t the case here. Instead, it gave the story a choppy, fragmented feel that only added to my desire to move on to something more engaging.
If you’re looking for a new and exciting novel of psychological suspense, let me assure you that Don’t Wake Up isn’t the book for you. Fortunately, there are a lot of books out there that fit that description, so please pass this one by in favor of one of those.