Annotation: After Theia Alderson made a deal with demon queen Mara in Under, she returns to the world of the living, half-human, half-demon like her boyfriend, Mara’s son, Haden. Unsure about her new powers, Theia struggles to get back to her normal life of high school and hanging out with her friends, Donny and Amelia. When students at her school begin to mysteriously fall ill, however, Theia worries that she brought something sinister back with her on her return from Under.
Personal thoughts: Falling Under was easily one of my favorite novels of 2011, so I was really excited to finally pick up the sequel. Although some of the elements of the first book that I loved so much were still there (Theia’s journeys to Under in her dreams, Haden’s charm, etc.), I wasn’t nearly as into the story as I was in Falling Under. There was too much fluff in the first half of the novel, leaving the action that occurred at the end feeling rushed and unsatisfying. I also felt that the author opened many doors in Dreaming Awake, but didn’t ever close them. I hope that she does write a third novel that can return the story to the level of originality and intrigue that was the first book. If she doesn’t then I think a series that had loads of potential would be squandered.
Plot summary: After Theia Alderson made a deal with demon queen Mara to protect Haden, Mara’s son and Theia’s boyfriend, she thought she would be stuck living in the beautiful but deadly world of Under for eternity. Thanks to her friends Donny, Amelia and Varnie, however, a summoning spell returns Theia to the world of the living. Reunited with Haden and her father, who thinks she ran away, Theia must now return to her normal high school routine while coping with the fact that she is now half-human, half-demon like Haden. Strange things start occurring in the weeks following Theia’s return from Under, however. Students at her high school begin to fall ill, she is plagued by dreams of a darkly beautiful garden next to a black, slow-moving river, and she can’t seem to shake the feeling that Mara is trying everything in her power to return her and Haden to Under. Will Theia have to choose between saving her friends and family or leaving them forever to spend an eternity as Mara’s servant in a land of skeletons, blood and nightmares?
Review: Following up her creative and riveting novel, Falling Under, Gwen Hayes continues her paranormal romance series for young adults with Dreaming Awake. The story picks up right where the first book left off, with Theia returning from several months in Under to a life on the surface that is different from the one she left behind. The same cast of characters are back: Theia’s wise-cracking but caring friends, Donny and Amelia, sweet, cross-dressing medium, Varnie, and Theia’s darkly handsome boyfriend (and reason for the events of the first novel to have taken place), Haden. What hasn’t returned for the sequel, however, is the captivating story that was Falling Under. Theia spends the majority of the sequel soul-searching (both figuratively and literally), trying to determine the nature of her new “demon blood” and wondering if she and Haden’s relationship will really work out. The mystery surrounding Haden himself is gone, replaced instead by a somewhat controlling, jealous boyfriend who can’t imagine why Theia has doubts about their amour. Mara, Haden’s demon mother, is arguably the most interesting part of the book. Icily beautiful and completely evil, she wants nothing more than to seek revenge on Theia for betraying her and leaving Under. The book ends with everything resolved more or less, but still open for another novel, which the author says may or may not be published. Fans of the wonderful Falling Under will likely want to read this novel, but not many will enjoy it with as much fervor as its predecessor.
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Falling Under by Gwen Hayes, The Soul Screamers by Rachel Vincent, Misfit by Jon Skovron, Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey, The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff, Everneath by Brodi Ashton.
Themes: Demons, Hell, love, romance, trust, revenge, friendship, spells, magic, witches.
Awards/Reviews: Sequel to positively reviewed novel, Falling Under (2011).
Series Information: Second installment in Falling Under series. First novel, Falling Under, released in 2011. Third novel in series may or may not be written.
Discussion questions:- Which novel did you like better: Falling Under or Dreaming Awake? Why?
- How do you think the characters in the novel changed between each book?
- How did Theia and Haden’s relationship change between the two novels?
- Why do you think Mara is so intent on seeking revenge against Theia?
- How do you explain what happened in the series of chapters called “Up Is Still Down?” Did you like the author’s use of a shift between narrators?
- If a third book is written in this series, what would you like to see happen? Do you think a third book is necessary to make the story feel complete? Why or why not?