by Jackie Goldman
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

"You think everything is one way, but then one morning someone oversleeps and forgets to lower the backdrop scenery on the stage of your life, and you realize that it's all an illusion."

Tess Shapiro has always prided herself on her ability to see the truth of a situation, past the façade that most people put up. A divorced, now-single mother of two, Tess deals with her marriage falling apart by drawing graphic novel sequences of her alter-ego, an international spy named Andrea Chambers. In the midst of Tess’s family upheaval, anti-French sentiments are on the rise, leading to terrorist attacks both abroad and at home in Brooklyn, and a new man works his way into Tess’s life. Can Tess keep it all together? What will she do when she stumbles upon another shocking truth?

Combining family drama, political intrigue, and a little romance, this re-worked novel is a fast-paced read that brings up questions of truth, illusion, and identity. The title of the novel plays to an important core concept of the story—being knowledgeable or “awake” to the behind-the-scenes information. Since Tess’s MO is to not be blindsided by false information, it’s important for her to be alert and awake. That’s where the incorporation of the graphic novel comes in. It exhibits both Tess’s need for escape as well as her process in working out difficult situations. Through the guise of Andrea Chambers and that character’s direct approach, she’s able to determine the clarity of a situation and figure out her next move in real life.

The author also does a great job at portraying a broken but not hopeless family life. Tess’s family is both her strength and her weakness, and the author successfully exhibits this with the emotional back and forth Tess has with her children, her mother, and her ex-husband. In the end, all the seemingly disparate elements at the beginning of the story blend well together to create an entertaining, thought-provoking read.

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