Tuesday, April 5, 2016

#Book #Review: Wake Me Up


"If you enjoyed The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - you'll LOVE Wake Me Up by Justin Bog."--Melissa Flickinger

A small college town's populace is tied, complicitly, to the brutal, bullying, attack of a teenage boy by four of his classmates. Soon, heated rumors of a possible hate crime surface. Injustice is a hungry beast.


"I see all of these people. They're living and breathing and acting on their basest impulses. I lay in a coma. They live. I hover over all of them, all at once. I can see my body, motionless, wired up, adrift. And I can find out why this happened. This is my story and I won't remember any of it when--if--I wake up. But I'll try to remember--I'll try damn hard."


While Chris Bullet remains unresponsive in a coma, his skull shattered, he floats above dire circumstance. In this phantom state, compelled to witness his past once more, the family's darkest secrets, hidden over generations, will be aired.

"Although Justin Bog is a member of International Thriller Writers group and his new book Wake Me Up is a crime story in general, it's not an easy-going page-turner about catching and bringing criminals to justice . . . The story unfolds from a very unusual point-of-view: from the depth of Chris' coma, the narrator is Chris himself. This is an original approach to tell such a complex and intricate story!"---Portland Book Review

"A Kafkaesque literary trip through the brain of a brutally assaulted teenage boy whose supercharged perceptions expose the secret sins of those he wants to love and hopes to believe in . . . The genius of author Justin's Bog's first full-length novel is that though everything Chris "knows" and recounts in his inner monologue is mysterious, maybe mystical, there is no hint of hocus-pocus, nor of the vague disjointed dream sequences one might expect from an unconscious protagonist . . . In the brief lead-up and denouement we see reality clearly: the attack and the aftermath. In between, everything that "happens" to Chris in his shut-off state is just as real and just as believable-but impossible. It would be hard to identify a literary precedent for this method of construction--Franz Kafka, perhaps, meets Lewis Carroll."---Chanticleer Book Reviews

M & J's Review

This story was one that had me on the fence, of sorts.  I loved it and hated it at the same time.  The realism bitch slaps the hell out of the reader and makes you wake up, literally. It's like the married couple who sees the elephant in the room, but skirts around it so not to disturb what is really going on.  Sometimes the most simplest things are the hardest.  Often times, if people would just reveal their true feelings, a lot of misunderstandings would disappear. The Bullets were no different.  They refused to deal with what was wrong with their own family unit, so they did like most of us do, ignore the elephant.  

That is, until a reality so sinister nearly left Chris Bullet for dead. Because he was different and misunderstood by his peers, he lay deep within a coma that gave him an insight into his own world, and the lives around him.  To me, the stranger, Deepika, was used as a pawn for each Bullets' own self-destruction.  Deepika was the excuse for them not to accept their own responsibility of what was wrong within themselves. 

Chris' new found insight stirred a host of emotions which helped him to better understand his parents.  His father was an attorney who appeared to have it all together, only to discover a deep hidden secret that was about to rip the seams open of the Bullet family.  Much like their name, this family lived up to it by tearing the skin and piercing each other's souls. Chris was able to hear his father's thoughts and watch him with a suspecting eye. His mother, a professor of creative writing, had her own crosses to bear which enlightened Chris and gave him new respect from his mother's point of view. Deepika holds the key to each Bullet family member, but before Chris's coma-induced state, couldn't know she would unlock their family's secrets.

What I disliked is the fact as much as I didn't want to identify with Chris, I found myself not able to ignore his new awakening.  His feelings and views resonated so much with myself, it terrified me.  Although his differences were very different from my own, what we shared when it came to our peers was eerily similar.  Chris was a geek, a genius, if you will, and the kids thought he was weird because of it.  Not only did his peers not like him, they hated him for not being what they were.  I could so identify with that.  To this day, I am still hated by the talents I possess, and yet I survived it.  What Chris goes through was more than I was ready to deal with, but Bog makes you wake up!  This is what I mean when I say I didn't like the story because it makes you deal with your own reality.  The one where often times you bury bad thoughts so deep down, you almost forgot they ever existed.  Wake Me Up will do exactly that.

Bog was able to bring this very real human element to life and the reader doesn't have a choice but to accept what is happening.  As with the Bullets, it's what you do with what happens to you that makes all the world of difference.  I've never read a story quite like this. Some reviewers have compared this story to The Lovely Bones and I'm not exactly sure if I agree with that assessment. I believe this story goes even deeper than The Lovely Bones for it demonstrates the destruction that one tends to lend to himself. In The Lovely Bones, the protagonist is dead, which the reader finds this out in about the first page, and here, Chris is in a coma and the reader sits and waits to find out will he ever recover?  Will he wake up?  To me, that's what sets it apart. No matter what, human beings will always be an intriguing animal.  We're supposed to be the highest intellectuals, and when you read stories like this, it begs to make you think again.  Hmm, just who is the superior intellectual?

Mello & June gives Wake Me Up four stars. It's a raw emotional ball of drama that will wake up the most dormant soul. Brilliantly written, with a sense of dark humor, which I loved! One thing Chris does that I've always done is use laughter as your best medicine. There isn't any medicine prescribed that's better. If you can't laugh at yourself or others with a sense of pride from realization we're not perfect, then you will continue to be lost. Great read and one that I most certainly would recommend adding to your reading shelf. Bog is the conscious voice of literary reason and socially adept to handle whatever story comes his way! Well done! I'm impressed!  I'd love to see this made into a movie.  It would be so fitting for today's movement.


A member of ITW: International Thriller Writers group, Justin Bog lives in the Pacific Northwest with his two long coat German shepherds, Zippy and Kipling. He is the author of the Suspense Magazine Award-winning collection, Sandcastle and Other Stories: The Complete Edition, and Hark: A Christmas Collection. Find Justin at http://www.justinbog.com and on Facebook at Justin Bog.

1.  Justin, I’m dying to know more of the backstory of the cover of your book Wake Me Up. You were kind enough to give your readers a snippet at the end of the story. I’m sure there’s more to the story. Would you care to elaborate?

My father and mother were both artists and met in an art supply store while in graduate school at the University of Iowa in the late fifties. I look at them as iconoclasts, and they definitely marched to their own drumbeat, possibly beatniks. They loved the art world. Instead of following heavy artistic dreams, my parents had five kids within six years, including two sets of twins. To pay for a suddenly huge family, my father took a professor job at Denison University in Ohio. This gave him a huge studio to paint in, and my mother began teaching junior high art. We five Bog kids were taught art by our mother! My father grew up on the Jersey Shore, and yes, Seaside Heights was his hangout place, where he brought his dates, and he was a bit of a player. One of his series of paintings became his Boardwalk Series of New Jersey in the thirties. The “Ocean Boy” painting was one of about 25 paintings, and I love the feeling in this canvas. I created the father, and his father, who lived near the Jersey Shore in Wake Me Up. They haunted the beach together, dreaming, and this haunted quality worked well as the basis for the book cover design.

2. Your novel was such a hauntingly gripping story line. Please tell our readers how you came up with the concept? 

I wanted to write a book that dealt with a family at its lowest point. The father came first, someone contemplating the end of his life even though, on the surface, he has everything to live for, be happy about. He’s hiding a huge depression, and I researched how men deal with depression differently from women and how they act out. This made the story go into a different direction. The father had an affair with a visitor to the town, acting out his depression through serial adultery. Deepika came into being, and she became my favorite character because she wasn’t buying this married man’s story either, and her confrontation with him down the line set off the main storyline. The son of the father, and narrator, Chris Bullet came into being, someone so hurt by the sins of his father, the abandonment of his mother because of her own dreams of success, that he finds himself in the wrong place and time, the victim of a brutal assault by four classmates. This crime is soon labeled a hate crime by the press, and this amps up the atmosphere. Matthew Shepherd’s horrible death was an influence, and bullying, antigay bullying, needs to be addressed at every new turn.

3. Did you mean for Chris Bullet to have such a dark sense of humor, or was that just the way some readers may view him?

I love this question because, in a way, this is a shared sense of humor that I also lean towards, and I’m happy you caught this in the book. I worked in an E.R. before grad school, in Ann Arbor, and the gallows humor there remained behind the scenes, but it’s there riding beneath any tragic circumstances. Tragedy and Comedy are linked. Chris probably inherited his sense of humor from his grandfather, passed down to his father, unknowingly.

4. How do you feel knowing some reviewers are comparing your story to The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold?

I love that too; I’m honored. In terms of narrative perspective, The Lovely Bones was in my head when I decided to make the narrator tell his story from an impossible place: while comatose and fighting for his life. This added urgency as well. Will Chris wake up? There really isn’t anything else that connects the two books.

5. It’s obvious you’re a great writer. Have you won any awards for your writing?

Thank you for saying that. Writers seldom hear from others about the craft, the hard part, nailing each word, phrase, sentence, and forming paragraphs that don’t bore readers. I’ve won a few short fiction awards, and was a runner-up for one other. It thrilled me to now end that a self-published title could earn the Best of 2013 Suspense Anthology from Suspense Magazine and become a Finalist for the Ohioana Book Award in 2014---that was Sandcastle and Other Stories: The Complete Edition. 

6. What professional literary associations are you affiliated with?

I’m now a member of the ITW, the International Thriller Writers organization, and you can sign up for a cool newsletter that shares writer tips and new releases in the thriller/mystery genre by going to thrillerwriters.org and signing up by email to The Big Thrill. This reaches over 27,000 mystery readers each month, and they interviewed me for the February issue of the magazine.

7. Knowing that most authors put a little of themselves into their story, what character(s) in Wake Me Up is most like you?

The character who is most like me is the guy walking Myrtle and Lucille in the story. He’s there with his partner, and decides to take Lucille’s leash off and gets scolded for it by a man doing yoga nearby. There are several characters who are composites of people I know or knew. My real friend Deepika knew I was going to use her name, and she said: “What dreadful thing are you going to make me do, Justin?” They are nothing alike, by the way. The character who is most true to someone in real life is The Chess King. His fabulous backstory is probably 99% true and he gave me permission to use his life biography as the basis for the character of the narrator’s grandfather.

8. How many years have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for several decades, working in bookstores for 20, always reading voraciously since the second grade.

9. Where are you from?

I was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Pullman, Washington until moving to Granville, Ohio beginning the second grade year. Then, I moved to Ann Arbor for college, and stayed in Michigan off and on to attend grad school in Bowling Green, Ohio until 1993 when I moved to Sun Valley, Idaho for the next twelve years. I’ve lived in Anacortes, Washington, on Fidalgo Island since 2005.

10. Whose writing style comes close to yours?

I love Shirley Jackson, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, Rachel Ingalls, Stephen King, and other writers like Margaret Atwood and John Irving, people who tell stories about real people. They taught me restraint, that subtlety is sometimes better than bombast. Crime and Punishment, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Castle were novels that influenced me greatly. I prefer Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter, and Ridley Scott film treatments to the films of Michael Bay or Zach Snyder.

11. Who is your favorite author?

I was wowed the most by Raymond Carver and Shirley Jackson after devouring the early work of both Stephen King and Peter Straub.

12. What’s next for Justin Bog?

I’m actually going “all in” to the horror genre for my next three titles, if I can complete them in a timely manner. I’m about halfway finished with each of these three books. The next will be a collection of four dark novellas: HORRORSTRUCK . . . sort of an homage to King’s wonderful dark collection of novellas, DIFFERENT SEASONS. Then I will finish A PLAY DEMONIC (THE QUEEN’S IDLE FANCY), a story about an ancient cursed play brought to a small island theater community. It’s only performed once every hundred years or so, and the auditions promise to be the most competitive and bloodthirsty --- by the time the curtain is raised for the spring performance, the town will know what darkness really means. That’s my tagline, anyway.

Mello & June would like to thank Justin Bog for hanging out with us and sharing his thoughts and writing skills with our readers.  Wake Me Up is really a good book and one, I guarantee, you'll be talking about for years to come!  We wish you the best of luck, Justin, in your writing career. May it be long and prosperous. You've definitely got the skills. Outstanding!

Find the Author/Buy the Book:

On Goodreads: http://bit.ly/20KuQLi

Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

A Simple Conversation Can Bring New Insight!