Stay Awake by Megan Goldin #BookReview #Psychological Thriller

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget―permanently.

In the vein of SJ Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Christopher Nolan’s cult classic Memento, Megan Goldin’s Stay Awake is an electrifying novel that plays with memory and murder.

What’s it about (in a nutshell)

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin is a spine-tingling thriller about a woman who loses her memory every time she goes asleep. She’s in danger from a killer, and to figure out who the killer is, she must stay awake.

Initial Expectations (before beginning the book)

The cover is a dark building with two lit windows – one of which has a woman in it in the shadows. Clearly, she’s awake long after everyone else has gone to bed. The blurb is even more intriguing and holds a great deal of information that are small bits of what sounds like a potentially excellent thriller. Between the two aspects, my initial expectations for this thriller are very high in terms of pacing and story.

Actual Reading Experience

I loved the cleverly plotted mystery most of all. I was totally stumped until the reveal. Of course, I had some thoughts, but they were all wrong. I had mixed feelings about the motive. I’m not sure it was really on par with murder, but people who murder other people are not thinking logical thoughts, so I was more than willing to just go with it. I was absolutely riveted by the idea of someone losing their memory whenever they fall asleep. It’s sort of like a crazy twist on movies, such as Groundhog Day, where a person must relive the same day repeatedly.

I loved all the action. Psychological thrillers do not always have much action, but this one did, and I enjoyed it very much. Between the action and the amnesia, the pages flipped quickly from start to finish. It got a bit repetitive in the middle, which slowed me down a little, but that didn’t last long, and my reading soon sped back up.

The conclusion is satisfying though it does again require some suspended disbelief. I loved that the major threads were brought to a definite conclusion. 

Writing Quality:

Rating: 10 out of 5.

Characters

Liv Reese is the main character, and we learn a little about her through the flashback chapters. Still, I wouldn’t consider her or any of the support characters, particularly well-developed. I didn’t mind this, though, considering the plot. There are also many things to let slide concerning her character, such as why anyone didn’t take her to the hospital. But again, this is fiction, so I was willing to buy into the inconsistencies with the natural world to enjoy a thrilling ride.

Character Development:

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Narration & Pacing

The story is told in two timelines and uses two narration styles for the current timeline. The main character Liv Reese tells events from two years ago in first-person narration. She is telling us the story of what happened to ultimately cause the amnesia she is dealing with in the current timeline. And the current timeline is told from Liv’s perspective in first-person. Then third-person narration is used for the chapters that tell of the police investigation into a murder that Liv is wanted for. This all worked together seamlessly and caused no confusion for me. I loved hearing Liv’s story in her own words. The stress of not remembering anything is told in a way that I could feel her confusion and constant feelings of being in danger as she felt them. All this works together to create a pace that is mostly fast throughout the story.

Pace (note: generally speaking, I prefer a fast pace):

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Setting

The story is set in New York City, which is ideal for increasing the thrills. Who would want to develop amnesia while walking around NYC – not me, that’s for sure. I think the city’s inherent danger could have been utilized more. Somehow this poor amnesiac woman is walking around the city at night, never getting mugged or even running into dangerous situations.

Word-Building/Use of Setting:

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Reminds Me Of

It was a unique story for me because the main character is an amnesiac. I have read a few thrillers where the amnesia is faked, though. Other people connected it to The Breakdown by B. A. Paris and Memento by Christopher Nolan. Still, I haven’t read any of these myself.

Originality:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

To Read or Not to Read

If you love psychological thrillers and can easily suspend disbelief as long as it means taking a thrill ride that you won’t soon forget, Stay Awake is just the book to keep you awake all night reading it.

‘Couldn’t Put It Down’-ness:

Rating: 10 out of 5.

Overall Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

24 Replies to “Stay Awake by Megan Goldin #BookReview #Psychological Thriller”

  1. “I was willing to buy into the inconsistencies with the natural world to enjoy a thrilling ride.” That is something I really struggle with in a contemporary setting, I’m pleased you enjoyed this one despite the issues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s one of those books that I didn’t notice some of the possible problematic areas while I was reading it but once I started picking it apart for my review – they became apparent. Suspending disbelief is easy for me for some reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a good point you make about the character development. If there was more, I might have been able to get on board with the motive. I knew who was behind it all, but kept waiting for a bigger explanation as to why.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. SPOILER ALERT – don’t read my response if you don’t want spoilers

      ***********************************************
      My take was jealousy gone to the extreme kind of thing – you know, caught her cheating on him and had the ultimate response and then Liv was, in his mind, either an unfortunate witness that he needed to silence or he might have even considered her the reason for the cheating since she brought the guy into their world (as her boyfriend). At least that was my thought process 🤷🏻‍♀️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT****

        My thing was I felt like nothing was revealed about that character to make me believe they’d go to that extreme – no backstory of obsessive jealousy or possessiveness, so I found it hard to swallow that they’d put themself in a position to lose everything. Still, it sure kept me glued to the pages until the end.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree setting and dangerous situation of being amnesiac and no one else to take care of should have been taken into consideration. And yes there isn’t much character depth but it’s easy to empathize with Liv. this was overall very enjoyable. Amazing review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally empathized with her. What a horrible situation all around – the amnesia and the reason for it. Such a compelling read!

      Like

  4. I don’t usually have a problem suspending belief, especially with thrillers unless it way off the rails. Wonderful review, Tessa. I have this on my TBR, but now to get to it! I love a good psychological thriller and amnesia is always an interesting twist.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review – makes me want to move it higher up my TBR. On the library wait list it goes.
    Terrie @ Bookshelf JOurneys

    Liked by 1 person

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