Quick Review – Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Stay Awake Cover 2

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Trade Paperback – 16 August 2022)

Series: Standalone

Length: 352 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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One of Australia’s most talented crime fiction writers, Megan Goldin, returns with another powerful and captivating read, Stay Awake, a unique and gripping novel that deals with memory, murder and a ton of traumatic suspense.

Over the last few years, crime fiction fans have been getting more and more impressed with the outstanding writings of Australian author Megan Goldin.  Goldin has so far written several epic and clever thrillers, and I have had a lot of fun reading two of her most recent books, The Escape Room (one of the best Australian books of 2018) and The Night Swim (one of the best Australian books of 2020).  Both of these books had outstanding plots, whether it was The Escape Room’s twisty tale of revenge or The Night Swim’s deep and emotionally charged story of justice for women, and I cannot recommend them enough.  After having such an epic time with her previous novels, I was very excited when I received a copy of Goldin’s latest book, Stay Awake, last year.  Featuring an outstanding story with an awesome hook to it, Stay Awake was an epic read that lived up to all my expectations.

Plot Synopsis:

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget―permanently.

In the vein of SJ Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Christopher Nolan’s cult classic Memento, Megan Goldin’s Stay Awake is an electrifying novel that plays with memory and murder.

This was a fantastic and captivating read by Goldin that really highlights her amazing ability as an author.  Stay Awake is a fast-paced and exceedingly addictive novel that grabs your attention early on and refuses to let go thanks to its very clever story.  Starting off with the main character, Liv Reese, finding herself covered in blood and with everything she thought she knew gone or altered around her, Goldin sets up an incredible introduction that sets up an amazing follow up story.

The book gets even more interesting once the author introduces Liv’s peculiar situation: thanks to a past trauma, her mind resets itself each time she goes to sleep and she cannot remember anything from the past two years.  This results in a brilliant story, which features three separate intriguing perspectives of events.  Not only do you get the exciting main story of a confused Liv running through New York City, attempting to get to grips with her lost life, but you also see events from two years in the past which led up to the trauma that claimed her memory.  At the same time, the book also follows Detective Darcy Halliday, who is assigned to investigate a dead body connected to Liv, and soon becomes obsessed with finding the amnesiac protagonist.  These three major plot lines are expertly weaved together as the book continues and you soon find yourself drawn into the exciting mystery of who Liv is and whether she committed the murder that Darcy is investigating.  Goldin also amps up the story by having Liv being chased by a mysterious figure who is intent on finding and killing her to protect their secret.

However, the real highlight of Stay Awake’s story has to be the continued memory lapses experienced by the protagonist throughout the course of her chapters in the present.  Due to her condition, Liv actually loses her memory several times throughout the course of her storyline, causing her mind to completely reset to two years in the past.  This is a very fascinating character element, and I felt the author used it extremely well.  It is very compelling and a little scary to watch Liv make the same mistakes and visit the same people repeatedly, especially as she has no knowledge of the last two years, such as certain deaths or relationships.  Watching her come to grips with her chaotic life, only to lose it again in the next chapter, is simultaneously heartbreaking and fascinating, and you honestly cannot tear yourself away from this gripping book.  Thanks to the killer using Liv’s condition against her, the story further devolves into a dark and unique game of cat and mouse, with Liv forced to find answers about her life while avoiding a danger that she unaware exists.  Everything comes together extremely well as the book concludes, and I loved the clever solution to the main mystery of Liv and the various murders, especially as the hints to it are subtly laid down in the three alternate plot lines, even if the protagonists doesn’t remember them.  A truly awesome crime fiction narrative that is expertly written by its talented author, who has produced another very unique crime story.

Overall, I was once again deeply impressed with Goldin, and I felt that Stay Awake was a particularly great novel from her.  Goldin really pulls together a distinctive crime fiction story in this standalone thriller, and I was really glad that the amnesia angle of her plot paid out so effectively.  Stay Awake really helps to cement Goldin as one of Australia’s, and the world’s, most inventive new authors, and I cannot wait to read her next book, Dark Corners, which is set for release later this year.

Stay Awake Cover

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2 thoughts on “Quick Review – Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

  1. Pingback: Canberra Weekly Column – Thrillers – 18 August 2022 – The Unseen Library

  2. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Australian Books of 2022 – The Unseen Library

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