October 22, 2013

Robin Wasserman: "Frozen" ("Skinned")

Title: Frozen (previously: Skinned) [on Amazon* | on Goodreads]
   *Note: the blurb is all wrong - they used the 3rd book recap.
Series: Cold Awakening (1st of 3 books)
Author: Robin Wasserman [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Year: 2008
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Not overly original premise brought to excellence. Strong, imaginative world-building. Well crafted, emotion-conveying prose.
Cons: You have to buy the premise, of course (parents willing to shove their kid's brain into a machine and all that). And you have to like the main character despite her past - which, apparently, proved tough to some readers (but not to me).
Will appeal to: Those who aren't afraid to think and speculate.

Blurb: Lia knows she should be grateful she didn't die in the accident. The Download saved her - but it also changed her, forever. She can deal with being a freak. She can deal with the fear in her parents' eyes and the way her boyfriend flinches at her touch. But she can't deal with what she knows, deep down, every time she forces herself to look in the mirror. She's not the same person she used to be. Maybe she's not even a person at all. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: Revelation: this series was actually one of the reasons why I decided to blog about books. I read the repackaged version, in late 2011 - then I stared at its Goodreads page asking myself "Why the hell hasn't this series gotten more recognition? Why aren't people screaming from rooftops how darn good it is?". 
Now, after a year of blogging and reviewing, I have a theory at last. A theory articulated in 3 points...
1) Lia isn't the most, um, huggable character you may read about. To be crystal clear: pre-download Lia was a conceited bitch (though she was in good company with that, and a product of her own environment), and post-download Lia mainly changes in what her condition prevents her to be the same person that she was, and has her facing things she's never even considered before.
2) Lia is a mind in a mechanical body - which may not appeal to those who favour a blood-scalding approach to human relationships (especially of the romantic kind). She takes the life-recreation issue at the core of a book like The Adoration of Jenna Fox (which, coincidentally, was out at the same time) to a whole new level. Because Jenna is also a product of her own DNA, not just a brain downloaded into a computer shell. (Though the download part is true about her too).
3) Lia is not bent on saving the world or changing it. She's not a spunky heroine like the one made popular by a certain dystopian series (*cough* The Hunger Games *cough* ...which, again coincidentally, was out at the same time). Though she finds herself fighting the ultimate battle and becoming the ultimate hero, in a peculiar way.
See, this series has friendship, romance, even a hint of a possible love triangle in it. So everyone should be crazy about it, right? Well, apparently, wrong. But really, I found it fascinating, and Lia did for me even more than Jenna and her friends did. And I hope I'll be able to make you fall in love with this series too...
Book 1 of the Cold Awakening trilogy deals with the aftermath of the incident that took Lia's life and turned her into a "mech", as opposed to an "org". The technology has been around for a while, and basically recreates human experiences and sensations in a synthetic body, downloading the dead person's brain into it. This also means the recipient can live forever, because if the new body wears off (despite being extremely durable), a copy of the mind can be downloaded in a new body, again and again. Of course, all the small and big things that define our humanity along with the mind - like physical pain or the five senses - are either nonexistent or artificially (and unsatisfactorily) recreated/processed. Last, but not least, "orgs" - even Lia's family and friends - can't seem to make peace with what Lia has become. While the point of the download was to keep her around for her loved ones, and to reintegrate her into her family and social life, this turns out impossible. Lia clings to a new friend who is more than willing to accept her as she is, but even this illusion of normality will fall under the ax of harsh reality. [...]

There's more to this story than the blend of ethical dilemmas and Lia's personal tragedy. (BTW...I do respect all the criticisms and opinions a book can generate...but when people say Lia is whiny, I really feel like screaming. OK, so you get to live forever, but not live-live. Your family and friends can't deal with you. Most people even hate what you've become - or worse, think you're a freaking object. You're not even sure you're human yourself. In order to feel something, you have to fool your fake neural synapses, or what the hell they have implanted in you. I can totally imagine me "whining" in this situation, and rightfully doing so. Having said this...I don't feel that Lia is a whiny character. She muses a lot of course, which may annoy action lovers, or fighting-heroine fans). Well, um, I was saying that there's more to this story. This is a dystopian series, after all, set in a distant (?) future where most things have gone wrong - though, as usual, the richest enjoy the best of the worst. The world-building is strong, layered, nuanced - mostly original in its details. Also, the writing is effective, and the speculations about what defines our humanity fascinating. The funny thing is, Lia is still a flawed character (what about basically using Auden, whom she never cared about back when she was popular)...nonetheless, she comes across as more "human" just now that she's technically not "human" anymore. Maybe it's because - even when faced with the ultimate disillusion - she can't help clinging to the core of what she used to be, though she's apparently embracing her "mech" self.
So, I did enjoy journeying with Lia in this first installment of the Cold Awakening trilogy, exploring her world and sharing her questions. And you know what - this book is a hidden gem. This trilogy is (because yes, as I'm writing this, I have already read it all - three times). Do yourself a favour - give it a chance. Am I being whiny? ;D

For quotes from this book click here.
For my review of "Shattered"/"Crashed" (second installment in the series) click here.
For my review of "Torn"/"Wired" (third installment in the series) click here.
For more Sci-Fi books click
Like this book? You might also be interested in Peter Dickinson: "Eva"; Mary E. Pearson: "The Adoration of Jenna Fox".

Repackaged version - cover montage: Frozen-Shattered-Torn


  1. Ah, yes, there are so many good books out there that aren't as popular as they should be (e.g. Stolen by Lucy Christopher & Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas), so I know how you feel! I must say that I hadn't heard of this one, but your review makes me want to read it. Goal accoplished ;) I love your list with explanations as to why this isn't popular: it had be going "hell yeah!" I really love reading a bitchy character - when displayed correctly - because there's just something that appeals to me. Maybe just the fact that not all heroines have to be goody-goody selfless boring girls. It's one of the reasons I loved Before I Fall so much, whereas others hated it because of the MC, who's a bitch. So I'm definitely putting this on my TBR :)

    1. You introduced me to Dangerous Girls via your review (going to read the book ASAP), so I'm just glad I was able to reciprocate! ;)
      I love it when you say "when displayed correctly". As for the average bitch...no, thanks.


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