(This cover was recently updated on 1/21/17 after a new cover reveal was released. You can see more about the new cover art here.)
By Brittany Quagan
Publisher: Balboa Press
Genre: YA Fantasy/SciFi
Seventeen-year-old Ren Nagel knows that the strange things she’s seen are real–even if no one else believes her. But, when she’s locked up in a psychiatric hospital; she loses hope that anyone will ever truly be on her side.
Then everything changes. With the help of a new friend, Ren breaks out. It’s when she’s on the run that she learns who she really is.
Hunted by evil, Ren must learn to control a power she never knew she had, organize a coalition of people she never knew existed, and remind humanity why fighting the darkness is a big part of being human.
Sometimes, feeling different is much more than just a feeling. For Ren, it means the fate of the world.
Do not judge this book by its cover. While I think the illustrator did a decent job of presenting the characters, this cover did not truly convey what was in store as I picked up this little book with an interesting synopsis. That is not to say this is a terrible cover, but it just did not capture the true spirit of REN: Awakened. Sitting on a shelf, I may have passed this up. But as luck may have it, I was contacted by the author and received a copy in exchange for an honest review.
REN: Awakened is a hard book to sum up in words. While it may feel pretty familiar at times, it is also completely different. Many of us are no strangers to plots involving teens with “powers” and the fight to save humanity. It is a concept that can still work though. It all boils down to presentation. So when I received my copy, I was hopeful, but not exactly prepared for how much I was going to enjoy Ren’s adventure.
Ren is complicated. Her life is complicated. At 17 years old, and having lived in and out of the system, she has struggled to make a home and friends. She doesn’t connect with anyone. She is different. She has never belonged. After collapsing in the school library, she is rushed to a local emergency department. A set of odd events then begin to occur then result in her admission to a psychiatric ward. Never has she felt more alone. But never has she been more wrong.
Enter Kiki, a girl who really doesn’t know Ren, but insists on helping her escape during a fire at the facility. Who is this odd girl? Why is she assisting Ren? It is not long until Ren uncovers the answers to this and so much more. She soon begins to understand why she has never felt that she belonged. Maybe she really didn’t. With new-found knowledge and friends, also comes a hefty responsibility. Ren plays a very important role in the fate off all humanity. A role she is not sure she is willing to accept.
I don’t want to reveal too much with the plot line here. You have enough to see the general picture, and again, it may feel familiar. But this is not a book to simply write off. Ren’s story is executed very well with a few surprises along the way. There is a completely original and solid system of magic and elements within Ren’s story that create a brand new experience.
The characters are somewhat mysterious in the beginning. The author manages to beautifully develop them through Ren’s discovery of the truth. As she learns more of who she is, we learn more of who they are. This is a story that revolves around revelations.
Ren is a credible teenage girl who has lived in the system. She is self-reliant, angry, and expresses a lot of what she feels through her witty sarcasm. At times, she is her own enemy. I enjoyed getting to know her. I wanted to know her. I felt for her, and while I was not able to fully relate to her, there was a connection. I cared enough to want to follow her on this journey.
“I’ll admit it; I wasn’t very good at making friends. I didn’t really have a strong desire to. When you feel like an outsider, you act like an outsider. When you feel like no one will understand you, you sort of set yourself up to be misunderstood. So I stayed in my lonely bubble.”
–“Ren” from Ren: Awakened by Brittany Quagan
The supporting characters were not without their own appeal. Each expressed likable qualities with a hint of questionable actions at times. They contributed greatly to maintaining the intrigue and suspense surrounding the unfolding events. Kiki was fantastic and perhaps my favorite. Her inability to express appropriate emotions and eccentric behavior (she eats tinfoil and raw meat for starters) added some much-needed comedic relief at times.
“I enjoy ice cream. Yet another delectable product to come from the cow. And the flavor can be improved by topping it with tinfoil and raw bacon.”
-“Kiki” from Ren: Awakened by Brittany Quagan
The writing moves effortlessly forward. It is clean and imaginative, easily weaving a rich story that unfolds in a very steady and semi-fast past, but without sacrificing a single detail. There is a lot happening and every facet seems to have been thoroughly explored and presented properly, avoiding the unnecessary complexity that can happen. The importance of Ren and this story to the author resonates within each page, creating a memorable experience. This easily would have been a “one sit” read, had I not chose to pick this up so late at night.
Would I recommend this REN: Awakened? Absolutely. To who? Fans of YA fantasy and maybe even science fiction. This small book is teeming with life and full of heart. With an ending that left me needing more, Ren’s journey is one I hope to continue following.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐