Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler is a cleverly plotted thrilling story that I enjoyed as an audiobook. Lawler uses the first-person narrative voice to show the reader just how crazy somebody can be made to seem when they cannot prove that an attack has happened to them, which to me related to the persistent rape culture and perception of women’s sanity in today’s society. Don’t Wake Up was published by Bonnier Zaffre. Trigger warning: at-home abortion.
Alex, a medical professional wakes up on one of her own hospital tables to find herself strapped down and being posed a question. What does no mean? If she answers correctly, she gets to live. When she wakes up again, she is in the car park and very disoriented by what has happened to her. She goes to numerous people to talk about the distressing situation, and is met with scepticism from colleagues, police and her boyfriend. When more victims of similar attacks show up and she gets threatening messages, Dr Alex starts connecting the dots. Everybody genuinely believes that she has made it all up, and she seeks out people who will hear her story and support her. When she herself is accused of the attacks/murders of these women, she must go out of her way to prove her innocence.
What I liked…
This is an easy read/listen. The plot is very similar to many female-led thrillers of the moment, including Friend Request and The Girl I Used To Be. Different in its plot, Lawler considers the view of women when they report attacks/rapes/attempted rape; even as a medical professional, Alex cannot get her colleagues or friends and family to take her seriously and believe her. This is a very strong statement for a book, especially when more victims turn up dead, as it just proves how far society will go in an attempt to make the world appear a little less vicious; to make rapists and murderers seem less cold and calculative.
While I found Alex quite annoying and whiny, I sympathised with her due to the reasons stated above. She stays mostly strong throughout the events of the book, but Lawler does allow her to have her weak moments in the shower, which many of us can relate to. Many of the characters in this novel are relatable, whether we see ourselves in them or somebody we know. The two romantic interests of Alex, for example represent two archetypes; the man who just wants the situation to go away, and the man who will believe you to keep you happy. These characters are given more depth than this, however, you do understand which to dislike and which to like whether you agree with their actions or not.
What I didn’t like
The narrator of this book was annoying. Which made Alex more annoying. If I had liked her voice, I feel that she would have come across less whiny. Audible seems to use similar narrators for all middle-aged white female-led novels, and they all just sound slightly upper class and very offended all the time. This took from my overall experience of this novel. Also, I found some of the events, especially the nurse’s death incredibly unrealistic. Does anybody really believe that a nurse would try to give herself a life-threatening medical procedure?
Overall, I mostly enjoyed this novel. I would give it a solid 4 stars, but believe that the audio version could be improved. I would recommend this to people who love reading female-led thrillers, and victim-led thrillers. I look forward to seeing what Liz Lawler can produce in the future, as she is a talented writer.