Loud Awake and Lost

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Loud Awake and Lost Book Poster Image
Teen aims to recover memories in mature psychological tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Since Ember's both a dancer and a budding chef, readers will learn a bit about the dance world and culinary skills, as well as about the art world, as a central character is an artist. New York City buffs also will enjoy the local color -- for example, a trip to the John Lennon memorial Strawberry Fields and a conversation about where to get the best food in town.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about seeking and finding the truth, even though it may be terrible; the importance of being true to yourself and finding your own path; and trying to do the right thing for yourself and the people you love.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ember routinely lies to her long-suffering and possibly overprotective parents, expects her BFF to cover for her, and behaves erratically with her friends (disappearing from a nightclub for no apparent reason, for instance). But she's also determined to find out the truth about her accident and discover her true path in life, and she matures and develops over the course of the story. Her friends, particularly her ex, Holden, show genuine concern for her, and the aunt of the mysterious Kai welcomes her and helps her heal.


The backstory involves a car accident that killed a mysterious young man and in which Ember, the driver, was badly injured.


Ember doesn't have sex with either boy she's with. In one case she and the boy are nearly naked in bed together when she realizes she doesn't want the relationship and backs away; in the other, circumstances intervene before they can get away together. Some description of foreplay, but it's not salacious, and some intense kissing.


Some crude language: "a--hole," "crap." Ember recalls "peeing through a catheter" when she was in the hospital.


Many product mentions, including cars (Volvo, Prius), candy (Mike and Ike, Twizzlers, M&M's), and technology (Google, iPod, Facebook). A fictitious rock group called Weregirl is important to the story, as is a past production of Chicago.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of Ember's friends comments on how freely the liquor's flowing at an adult party, and some of the teens drink. When Ember behaves strangely, she and her friends blame spiked punch. Ember worries that in the part of her life she can't remember, she may have hung out with "druggies." A boy she likes drinks nothing stronger than coffee because his dad was an alcoholic; some adults drink too much.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although Loud Awake and Lost isn't nearly as dark and nasty as author Adele Griffin's last YA outing, All You Never Wanted, it deals with mature issues, from the aftermath of a fatal car accident to troubled relationships. Some readers will be thrilled by narrator Ember's wanderings through the labyrinth of her own mind in search of the truth, including true love; others may find it too much effort. Ember routinely lies to her parents and is physically intimate with two boys, although they don't have sex; much of her behavior's driven by her efforts to remember a part of her life before the accident in which she was badly injured and a mysterious young man died. There's a bit of underage drinking, crude language, and many mentions of commercial products, which serve mostly as scene setting.

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What's the story?

Seventeen-year-old Ember has come back to her parents' home in an affluent Brooklyn neighborhood after being hospitalized for eight months in the wake of a terrible car accident she doesn't remember. Her mom, dad, and longtime friends are overjoyed to have her back, and her ex wants to get back together. But she soon realizes that there's quite a bit they're not telling her about the weeks leading up to the accident, of which she has no memory -- in particular, anything about the young man who was killed when Ember was driving. Before long, she's drawn to places she can't recall that seem strangely familiar -- and a boy who appears and vanishes as she tries to find the truth and her own path in life.

Is it any good?

LOUD AWAKE AND LOST covers less toxic territory than author Adele Griffin's recent All You Never Wanted, and the characters, while flawed, are more appealing. Some readers will find Ember's psychological odyssey so compelling that they'll immediately start again from the beginning to pick up the hints pointing to the resolution. Others will find the wanderings through her own mind so convoluted that they give up or wonder whether the conclusion's a sufficient payoff for all the angst. Teens who like cooking, dance, or New York will get lots of interesting detail.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories set inside a character's head and the uncertainty of what's real and what's not. Why do you think such tales are popular? Do you think Loud Awake and Lost does a good job of dealing with the issues?

  • Do you think Ember is justified in lying to her parents, or is she treating them badly? When do you think it might be OK to lie to your parents or just not tell them what's going on?

  • Have you been to New York City? Does Loud Awake and Lost make you want to spend time there?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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