Book Review: Awakened (House of Night #8) by PC and Kristin Cast

Summary: 
At the start of Awakened, the pulse-pounding eighth installment of the bestselling House of Night series, Zoey has returned, mostly whole, from the Otherworld to her rightful place as High Priestess at the House of Night. Her friends are just glad to have her back, but after losing her human consort, Heath, will Zoey—or her relationship with her super- hot Warrior, Stark—ever be the same? Stevie Rae is drawn even closer to Rephaim, the Raven Mocker with whom she shares a mysterious and powerful Imprint, but he is a dangerous secret that isolates her from her school, her red fledglings, and even her best friends. When the dark threat of Neferet—who is coming closer and closer to achieving her twisted goal of immortality—and Kalona returns, what will it take to keep the House of Night from being lost forever, and what will one desperate girl do to keep her heart from being irreparably broken?

Review: 
You could have knocked me over with a feather after I closed the cover of Awakened.  And considering my eight months pregnant body, that's saying a lot.  I sped through this book, partly because of the fast-paced plot and partly because I was experiencing the "car-wreck" phenomenon.  I had that feeling of not being able to look away from something gruesome because of the sheer entertainment value.  Sad, but true.  I read Awakened solely because I got it for free from my library.  I swore after Burned that I would not be buying any more House of Night books, and I plan to keep that oath.

One of my main complaints about the House of Night series is the inappropriateness for young adults.  If I'm reading adult fiction, I expect sex scenes.  I expect (although I don't like it) bad language.  I expect some raunchiness when I pick up a romance novel.  I expect some gore when I read thrillers.  I don't expect any of these things from YA, and that's why I like YA.  I like reading clean books, books without any of the more adult themes and scenes.  I read adult fiction from time to time to prevent burnout, but I like my YA pretty clean.  So many YA authors have written great YA novels while staying appropriate for the genre, like Richelle Mead, Stacey Benefiel, Rachel Vincent, Jennifer Echols, Cassandra Clare, and Alex Flinn, to name a few. However, the Casts are not included in that list.

This series started off raunchy (remember the scene in Marked where Aphrodite is on her knees in front of Eric in the hall?) and instead of getting back on track, the Casts have totally derailed into overt obscenity.  I might have been able to forgive some of the lewdness in light of a great plot and excellent writing.  However, those two elements are missing from Awakened, and the series as a whole.

**Spoiler Alert**
Besides the sex scenes starting on the first page of the book,  there were some things that really bothered me about Awakened.  I'm going to summarize to keep this review from getting too long:
  • The Casts seem to be poking fun at Christianity.  The white and dark bulls, John Heffer being caught in his office with his pants around his ankles and his secretary bent over his desk despite being a church elder, the feel of black magic in the series, all of this combined feels like a parody of Christianity.  I don't like that.
  • These books are taking themselves way too seriously.  Zoey starts out as a popular girl dating a jock in Marked, and less than a few months later, she's a High Priestess.  High Priestess of what, exactly?  Just because she can cast a circle?  That seems more "witchy" than vampire to me.
  • Kalona entering Stark's body while Stark and Zoey are in bed together screams "statutory rape" to me. 
  • I know the Casts would say it's all in the interpretation if they were ever questioned, but there's NO WAY you could tell me that Neferet does not have sex with the white bull.  What else can these quotes mean?
First, an awakening of attraction between Neferet and Darkness:
"His nose did not quite touch her delicate skin, but he inhaled her scent and then his cold breath released, surrounding Neferet, caressing her most sensitive places, awakening her most secret desires."
"The bull's tongue snaked out.  He licked Neferet's naked flesh, causing her to gasp in exquisite pain as her body trembled with excitement."
"'I would willingly accept any favor Darkness would do for me.'  The bull's knowing chuckle rumbled through her mind." 
Then, while Neferet is preparing her human sacrifice to Darkness:
"You shall pay me later, my heartless one, rumbled through her mind.  Neferet shivered in anticipation."
Later, as the human is being sacrificed:
"The bull moaned in pleasure.  When the human was drained to a husk of herself, and the bull was thrumming and swollen with her death, Neferet gave herself to Darkness, utterly and completely."  
Lastly, after Neferet "gave herself to Darkness":
"Her body ached, but Neferet didn't mind.  The truth was, she enjoyed the pain...Neferet ignored the gore that covered her skin."
To me, there is no mistaking that the Casts have decided to make bestiality a part of the series.  This was totally unnecessary and uncalled for.  It ruined the book for me and made me feel tainted.
**End Spoiler Alert**

Just One Gripe: 
See above!

The Best Thing About This Book: 
I had complaints about the content of Burned as well as the lack of plot.  Awakened did have a much better plot and more action in it than Burned, but I just couldn't get past the lewdness.

Appropriate for a younger audience: 
No!  The content of the last two books has kept me from recommending the series as a whole.

Score: 
Characters: 1/5
Plot: 2/5
Setting/Imagery: 1/5
Originality: 1/5
Ending: 2/5
Total Score:  7/25







25 comments:

  1. I agree with everything you've said here! Innapropriateness aside, how many more books are they going to squeeze out of this seemingly endless plot? I've never read a book so fast in my life, probably because I skimmed over half of it. When will the madness end? LOL

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  2. That is funny I thought Burned was more exciting than Awakened but I COMPLETELY agree about the gross stuff in this book. The teen sex doesn't bother me too much but the cavalier attitude about it does. It should be taken more seriously. And the bull with Neferet?? EW.

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  3. I completely agree with everything you said about this book. I also agree with Nathalie's comment above that this series just won't end. I feel like they're stretching it out for the sake of just having more books. I very rarely read a series and starting to myself, "gee, when is this ever going to be over," but I do with these stories.

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  4. I'm so glad that I dropped this series. The plot and books were going nowhere. Juggling between 3 males and the uncalled for sex scenes are definitely turnoffs. Thanks for confirming that I'm not missing out on this series.

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  5. Blech. Doesn't sound like it's for me. Thanks for the awesome review that helped me realize that and the content warning. :)

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  6. This doesn't sound like it's for me at all. I'm not one to judge a book by sex scenes, but I don't like overt sexuality in YA, and I certainly don't appreciate Christianity being the target of humour. Thanks for the honest review :)

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  7. Kelli I think you and I are kindred reading spirits. I can't stand over cussing and while I think sex is realistic in YA, there is a fine line that shouldn't be crossed when writing those scenes.

    I haven't read these books, but I did enjoy reading this review.

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  8. Thank you for this review. Since these books aren't as well known, say, Twilight, so it's hard to come by a book review that doesn't praise the books, and I need sources for a research paper.

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  9. thourougly_pissed_fan4/9/11, 11:07 AM

    What you said is so true. I was so disgusted with the book that I'm practically skimming through it...and I NEVER do that. The whole thing with the White Bull seriously left me feeling violate....as well as the Kalona-entering-Stark's-body.

    As much as I disliked Burned, for it's complete lack of plotline, a moping and grieving Zoey was still better than this Kalona-Neferet-White Bull mess.

    Hell, True blood (even uncensored), as well The Southern Vampire Mysteries Series, is cleaner than this......and that's not exactly YA!

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  10. Honestly i love this series and you are just a prude. so what if there are sex scenes? the rest of the book more than makes up for that. alright, the bit with the bull is kinda sick but the book and the others in that series are just so well written it makes it worthwhile. i couldn't stop reading them after i read the first chapter of burned.

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  11. @ Anonymous:

    I'm glad you enjoy the series. The whole point of book blogging is to discuss books with other readers. There's no need to get ugly and call me a prude. If you look through my other reviews, you will see I read plenty of adult fiction and am not averse to sex scenes. My complaint about this series is the number and type of sex scenes in a YA series. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and we ought to be able to voice our opinions without taking potshots at other readers.

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  12. I agree with anonymous. I don't think you know what your talking about at all. I agree we are all entitled to opinions, but i honestly don't think yours is vaild at all. Why are you reading a YA novel anyway? Old people should keep out of our business, this is ridiculous. Do you honestly think that teens aren't out there having sex? Of course we are and this book is address things that are really happening in a fictional way. Yea we don't have vampires but we have boyfriend issues and we make mistakes. The fact that you don't like the cursing and sex just shows that you are way to old to be reading this book, and are in fact a bit of a prude. And I don't believe that they are saying anything about christianity, I think they are just writing an awesome story for their fans to enjoy. Im not sure why christians have to turn every thing in to an insult, not everyone cares about you and your lack luster religion, so stop trying to draw attention to it. I like that they have so many books, too often authors write only one or two and leave a thousand questions unanswered. This series has everything i like adventure, love and occasional sex, fighting , magic and mythical creatures. It is perfect just the way its, well ok the bull thing is really gross and weird, but people really do that and it just goes to show you that they are all inclusive, from gays to beastiality. I believe that if its not hurting anybody else people should be allowed to do any thing that they please, even sleep with bulls, eww but none of my business and there for none of yours or my business. This book is perfect for teens and thus not for you old lady.

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  13. Dear previous comment.

    I am tempted to say many things but I will not stoop to your level. Just know that she has every right to say what she wants on her blog, and that I completely agree with what she has to say about this series. I gave up after the first book and lets leave it at that. Although I must admit. Never have I encountered such a rude and immature comment during my two years of blogging. And for that I congratulate you. Well done.

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  14. It always shocks me when people say rude things on peoples blogs. I think we are free to say whatever we wish on them and it's not right to come on and call someone a prude or any other mean name. I read all sorts of YA and I'm 30. So I'm too old to read YA?! Man, those two comments really pissed me off!

    I've been reading this series from the beginning and I'm not sure why I've stuck with it. I agree with everything you said. But for some strange reason I just have to know what happens. From now on out I plan to get them from the library though, I'm not spending another penny of my own money on these books!

    Also, I am not at all religious but I still got that same feeling that maybe they were poking fun at Christianity.

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  15. I liked them in the begining, but the past few books have gone kinda south. I have awakened on my shelf which I got when it came out, and I have yet to read it because it seemed like it was just dragging on. I heard or read somewhere that it was going to be 12 books. I can't see how they can make 12 books out of it, but what do I know.

    Thanks for the honest review. I'll probably put off reading it for awhile longer now.

    To those who can't appreciate honesty on a book blog. Why bother reading them at all?

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  16. It seems everyone is entitled to free speech...unless someone disagrees with what you said...then watch out! Sorry for the attack you had to endure. I am signing this anonymous because I am an author and know of the true cruelty of people if the don't agree with you! Freedom works both ways. Grow up and find another blog to read!

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  17. Seriously? Old lady? What is it about people that they can't take a bad review?

    Back in the day when reviews ran in newspapers one bad review really hurt a book. But in this modern age with TONS of book reviewers - it's ok. It balances itself out people.

    To the people that didn't like your review I say GROW UP.

    Take some criticism. Realize someone saw it differently than you. That's life and the quicker you get over that the better. And if you don't like their review - you need to grow up and find another blog.

    ICK!

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  18. I'm just a couple years out of my teens, and this isn't something I would have appreciated back then, so age has nothing to do with her opinion.

    Point of interest though: this series is shelved in adult fiction in the library I work at.

    Rather glad I haven't picked it up now. I'm very picky about my vampire books, and this does not sound like it'd be one I like.

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  19. Kelli, I stopped reading this series in book 3 BECAUSE of what you said in your review. This is YOUR blog and you are entitled to post YOUR views. I agree with everything you said.

    Now Anonymous, are you going to call me an old lady and a prude too? After all, I am a 16 year old.

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  20. Yikes! Sounds like I made a good call when I stopped reading at that hallway scene you mention (from the first book). That scene was enough for me.

    I like reading YA books because they tend to be cleaner than adult books. If people like these books, then good for them. These kinds of books just aren't for me.

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  21. The only thing I personally disagreed with was the bit about Christianity. I don't feel that Christianity is being poked fun at (with the exception of Zoe's step-father), but this may be because I am, in fact, a Wiccan practitioner. However, I highly agree that a lot of it has more to do with magic than with vampires themselves.

    Throughout the series, I have felt that it has been growing increasingly more adult like in the descriptions involving intimate moments. I personally don't think these can be classified as YOUNG adult novels any longer, particularly after this one.

    When it comes to the Bull, I think it was supposed to portray how disgustingly disturbed Neferet is. But in NO way does that make it ok.

    I only recently began reading your blog, but it quickly made it's way to my bookmarks for fast access. I'm glad the rude comments from the two people who clearly are not mature enough for this type of reading didn't make you stop. Your reviews are honest, well thought out, and generally spot on. I look forward to reading all of your posts!

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  22. I deffinatly agree with some points mentioned here, like the attitude towards christianity. I'm not a christian but I find some of the remarks and events totally disrespectful and pointless as they add nothing too the book. I also agree with the whole neferet and the bull scenes, they are completely weird and slightly disgusting but at the same time I think it shows us how perverse and sick nerferet has become. However my disagreements start with the sex scence issues. I don't particulary mind them as I feel they relate to the lives of many teenagers and it helps us bond more with zoey as a character because otherwise we have no similarities with her as she doesn't seem like a normal teenager.. Love this blog! Sorry if there are any spelling mistakes, my spelling sucks..

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  23. This sounds like such a cute series for fun, quick reading. I need to look for the first book!divorce papers

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  24. I was impressed by your review too often all I ever read on blogs are positive reviews of books so it is nice to see one with criticisms. Unfortunately House of Night is one of my favourite series so I feel I should look at some of points rage. First off I don't agree with the anti-Christianity thing I would point to Zoey's alliance with the sisters at the pet rescue place. They even protected Zoey and her friends so I don't see any of that as being negative towards Christianity. The point that was made about Zoey's stepfather was the fact that he was a hypocrite as shown by how he treated first Zoe then ultimately how he treated his wife.

    As for the sexual content I agree it should have something like a 16+ rating as I have seen places where the book is labelled by vendors as appropriate for 13 and older which it is not. I don't think this is an author problem as much as a publisher one. I think it is interesting how much you talk about sex in this book yet don't discuss it or the mature themes in say Vampire Academy which is one I take issue with.

    As for Awakened itself I agree about the plot getting away from them and part of me thinks again Publishers are somehow to blame.

    Anyway keep up the goodwork

    Shaft from
    http://shaftsword.blogspot.com

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  25. I really hate those books, but not for the reasons you've given.
    First, I want to say that my copies have a warning at the back that says "Not suitable for younger readers". If you still decide to let your children read it, it's your problem, not the Casts'. In any case, I do not stand for sheltering teens. Do you really think they've never heard bad words or that they don't know about sex? They have. Possibly even more than you.

    The problems I have with these books are too numerous for an exhaustive list, but here are a few:
    - They're very badly written. I could make a list of all the awkward sentence structures, unnecessary asides, random parentheses, the pseudo-teen- speech, etc... the lack of a coherent plot, bad use of popular and classic references, the mary sue main character and stereotypical secondary characters, etc... but it would take me years.
    - Zoey is a terrible role model. Not because she has sex. But because she's a shallow, slut-shaming, victim-blaming hypocritical bully who thinks she deserves everything because she's just so special.
    I was recommended this series by someone who described it to me as a feminist version of Twilight. No, thank you. I'll go back to Bella. Bella may be weak and stupid, but it all comes from a good place. Zoey's strength however is the result of her just plain being a bad person.

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