The title of Megan Goldin’s newest thriller, “Stay Awake,” is important. We find out that those two words have been vital to the survival of the main character, Liv Reese, for two different reasons. Why must Liv Reese stay awake? Why has she written those words on her arms? On her doors? In fact, why are exhortations like that posted and written everywhere: stay awake, don’t trust anyone, don’t sleep? What we know from the first page is that Liv has problems remembering things. For example, she doesn’t know why she has a bloody butcher knife in the pocket of her cardigan. She doesn’t know why someone else is living in her apartment nor why it’s been totally redecorated. She doesn’t know why her roommate Amy doesn’t answer her phone, nor does Liv’s boyfriend, Marco.
The story is cleverly told in the present, with the day of the week and time clearly noted at the start of each chapter, as well as in the past. At the start, we see that Liv has memory issues and doesn’t know how she came to be in a cab at night. Her last memory is being at her office and answering the phone. The story is also told in the past in Liv’s first person point of view and clearly indicated as being two years prior. We meet two detectives who are assigned to solve the murder in which Liv is implicated. While both of Liv’s points of view are in first person, we hear from the detectives in an equally significant third person narrative, the time of our interactions with them also clearly denoted with day and time.
Goldin’s ability to weave the plot to keep us guessing, wondering about what exactly happened and who did it, is masterful. We come to like Liv and want to believe that she really wouldn’t kill anyone; but the evidence is stacked against her. Either she’s psychotic and killing people and not remembering it, or she’s the victim of a carefully laid plot to ensnare her so that to all the world, she looks like the guilty one. We keep reading to find out who the puppeteer is and what happens to Liv.
The dialogue is realistic and the action nonstop. The twists and the different points of view are gripping. The scenes where things are happening to Liv and she doesn’t know how are truly surreal and, in a sense, frightening, because we can only imagine how we would react if something like that happened to us. My only frustration at an ending that was really fabulous is that I wanted to know what happened to Liv’s one-eyed cat. I want to imagine that Liv went to the shelter and rescued Shawna, the ginger kitty. But that’s a minor point in a book that delivers big for fans of gripping thrillers with a unique twist.
Please note: This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.