Thursday, December 7, 2023

A chaotic thrill ride that won’t let you go



There was no paper handy.

That's your excuse for writing a phone number on the meat of your thumb. No pun intended, but it was handy but now you can't quite totally remove the ink and you're feeling like an eighth grader again. Even so, you've got the number and, as in the new novel, "Stay Awake" by Megan Goldin, you won't likely forget it.

She was shocked to see that the leaves had turned color.

The last thing Liv Reese remembered was the sun across her keyboard in her office, the warmth of the day and taking a phone call. But now, without knowing how it had happened, she was sitting outside on a park bench, there was a chill in the air, a promise of snow and the leaves were falling. She was confused about that, just as she was confused about the mess on her hands. For some reason, she'd written all over them with a ball-point pen, numbers, notes, and the words "STAY AWAKE" and "WAKE UP."

She didn't recognize the clothes she was wearing. The park wasn't familiar, either. She had no idea where she lived anymore and she'd lost her phone. She returned to a workplace she knew, but it had changed; when she followed one of her inked notes and went to a nightclub called Nocturnal, they seemed to know here there. So why didn't Liv know herself?

And what else did she not remember? She had to know, quick.

Because the building she thought she lived in was surrounded by police and the news was filled with reports of a murder. Someone had killed an as-yet-unidentified man and had written the words "WAKE UP!" on the window in his blood, the same words Liv had, for some reason, scrawled on her own wrist.

She was sureshe didn't know the man. She didn't remember ever being in the building, either, though she must've been inside because police had CCTV footage of the dead man entering with a dark-haired woman.

That woman was Liv.

In addition to the book itself, want to know what else you'll need when you start reading "Stay Awake"?

Gloves. They'll keep you from leaving fingernail marks on everything you clutch in panic, due to the sky-high, gasping suspense and the stomach-dropping relief, repeat as necessary, inside this novel. Gloves will also give you something with which to mop your brow when you sweat from the chase that author Megan Goldin sends her readers on. Gloves will give you something to chew on instead of screaming, and they'll help you get a firm grip on your jaw as it drops into your lap at the twists and turns this novel takes through a purposefully chaotic, heart-racing, story-driving time frame.

Now granted: super-rabid reality-loving armchair detectives may note a few gaping holes in the story here, things that poke holes in authenticity but that will settle nicely if you let them. So let them, and you'll learn that "Stay Awake" couldn't have been more aptly titled.