Meet Quentin, a middle school football star from Chicago…
Sarah, an Upstate New York girls’ hockey team stand-out…
Ben, a horse lover from the Pacific Northwest…
And Cat, an artistic bird watcher from California.
The four have nothing in common except for the head injuries that land them in an elite brain-science center in the Florida Everglades. It’s known as the best in the world, but as days pass, the kids begin to suspect that they are subjects in an experiment that goes far beyond treating concussions….and threatens their very identities. They’ll have to overcome their injuries – and their differences – to escape, or risk losing themselves forever.
For a middle-grade novel, Wake Up Missing packs quite a punch, with brains, genetics, a secret lab, and a sinister plot in this heavy science-fiction mystery novel. The younger narrators aren’t a hindrance to such an ambitious book in any way, as some might be worried about, but to me, the concept of the book was a little improbable, and that took away some of the impact I would’ve liked to have felt.
Summary: All Cat wants is to recover from her severe concussion and return to her normal life. But her brain is stubborn, and so when word comes around of one of the world’s top brain centers, she and her mom have their hopes renewed. Maybe, just maybe, going for treatment at I-CAN will save her and bring back the girl she once was. But soon she realizes that I-CAN isn’t the brain haven she once thought it was, and together with the other patients, she discovers an evil plan that has the power to change them into someone they’re not… and destroy the world.
I went into this not knowing that it was actually part middle-grade, part young adult, so that may have contributed a little to the fact that I found it lacking the depth I usually see in YA novels. Still, there’s no denying that Messner had a very cool, very original — albeit a bit unrealistic — idea coming along here. The brain has always been a fascinating subject for me (though I don’t know much about it other than what my bio book tells me!), and it was quite disappointing when it wasn’t explored as much as I would’ve liked. Don’t get me wrong: there were still enough science fiction elements to satisfy me, like genes and DNA and some brain-treatment technologies I never knew existed, but on the whole, I wanted more.
There were also several plot holes that I wanted answered, like, if I-CAN already had other patients prior to Cat, Quentin, Sarah, and Ben, and if they’d mysteriously disappeared, why did no one try to find them? Call the cops? Do something? Also, why are children the only test subjects? Why not adults? Wouldn’t adults, especially those who live by themselves and don’t have anyone worrying about them, be a whole lot more convenient? I also wanted the mystery surrounding one of the doctors to have been more clearly explained, but it wasn’t.
Character-wise, though, the author did a pretty good job. I’ve noticed that MG books seem to lack characterization — the characters sound the same and act the same, but for Wake Up Missing, the characters were all very well defined. I didn’t get them mixed up once, and never doubted how real they were. However, Cat’s stiff and slightly emotionless narration prevented me from actually getting attached to them, which was a shame, because I would’ve liked to understand how they were truly feeling.
But overall, Wake Up Missing was a fairly decent book that I enjoyed, and while the characters weren’t really memorable, the idea behind the plot definitely was (holes aside). Wake Up Missing would be fun to curl up with on a rainy day, and if you’re looking for a quick read!
Who is this book for?
Readers looking for a “deeper” middle-grade novel and with some crazy sci-fi elements.
Po flickered. “Thank you?” it repeated. “What is that?”
Liesl thought. “It means, You were wonderful,” she said. “It means, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
– Liesel and Po, Lauren Oliver