Oh, I do love me my Karen Healey. I’ve been super-excited for We Wake since it was announced, even without knowing what it was about aside from “It’s got Sleeping Beauty and the Beatles and THE FUTURE.” (Mainly because I wanted MOAR KAREN HEALEY BOOKS.) Unlike the dozens of followers in Suzanne Collins’s dystopic wake, When We Wake is a true sci-fi YA novel. Yes, there’s government conspiracies and potentially apocalyptic events at play, but this world in 2128 is a lot more plausible than the majority of YA dystopias out there. (Let’s be honest; true science fiction is rare in YA right now.) Global warming does contribute to the destruction of the earth, but it feels like this could be the direction we’re headed in. Not to mention, it’s set up as being something that has evolved over time; there’s no unspecific event that we’re told about and then conveniently handwaved because it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot.And even the world that Tegan wakes up to is more plausible. While equality in religion and love has become the norm and accepted, racism is still a major problem. Hell, Tegan finds this out the hard way when she first meets Abdi and the first thing out of her mouth, “You look just like my ex-boyfriend!” And realizes what she just said. Even aside from social gaffes, there’s a heavy discussion of racism that plays into the larger plot. Again, I love this—it feels more realistic than any other futuristic YA world that I’ve read.The one thing that I love about Karen Healey’s work in general is that her characters are extremely realistic. Not only does she have a wide variety of characters in her works (When We Wake includes a lesbian Muslim and her trans*woman drug dealer ex), but she makes them feel realistic but having them screw up. The aforementioned incident with Tegan and Abdi, for example. A lesser writer would probably haven’t brought up the fact that Tegan is called out for sounding racist; even when Bethari offers to explain, Tegan says that, no it’s her screw-up and she’ll own up to it. It’s a character trait that I’ve seen in every one of her books, and I actually really like that Healey takes the time to address the fact that, even people like Tegan who want to make the world better will still screw up…but they’re going to own up to their screw ups.And Tegan is just normal. Again, it’s extremely refreshing to pick up a futuristic book and find a heroine who’s not super-special. Even Tegan’s surviving the cryosis isn’t the result of some super-rare gene her father’s bloodline has and that’s why she could be unfrozen and that’s why she’s the key to this whole evil plot. Nope, the reason for Tegan’s survival is that she was in the wrong place and the right time. But that aside, I loved that Tegan is a normal, average girl who’s not boring. She says that “Everyone else I know is extraordinary, and I’m not,” and I liked that honesty. I also love that she is passionate about doing good and trying to save the world, even if it’s just her and her friends and the Beatles. (And she’s a Ringo fangirl. Yes.) Also, Tegan’s religious but not…fundamentalist or overbearing. It ‘s something that comforts Tegan—she doesn’t have a huge existential crisis about her soul or who she is. That is touched on, especially once the Inheritors of the Earth get involved, but as for Tegan herself, I liked having a main character who did feel like her faith was important. (Tangent, there’s a throwaway line about how the USA has been torn apart by fundamentalist wars. I don’t know whether I ought to laugh at that or be worried.) I love Tegan, she’s relatable and normal, but I’m never bored by her.However, yet again, my favorite characters are the side characters. I love Bethari. The first moment when she and Tegan first meet, I was afraid that Bethari was going to be frosty, but once Tegan broke the ice, I immediately fell in love with her. She’s funny and fun and resourceful; and again, a human being who messes up. Bethari has a lot of love for her friends and she wants everyone to succeed and be happy at what they do. I loved that she still cares a lot for Joph, and that she worries about her ex. And the scene when Joph reveals what she’s been doing the whole time with her drug research and accuses Bethari of casting her as an atypical addict—ugh, my heart. It’s a little sad that Bethari and Joph do get dropped from the plot suddenly—there are good reasons for it happening, so I’m not too upset by it, but still. I want more. (Methinks the sequel, currently codenamed “Cheerbaby Goes to State” will focus on Bethari. Yes? Yes?)Abdi. *swoon* I—oh my. Look, from the description, he sounds hot, so yes. (He’s legal, right? Yes I have feelings about these things for fictional characters.) I love that despite Tegan’s initial screw-up, Abdi’s ready to help Tegan out in a grueling music class and then they start bonding over Beatles songs. (It’s a really sweet moment whenever he sends her the Ringo All-Star Band stuff.) I love that the two of them don’t butt heads, and despite Abdi’s reservations about being visibly friends, he’s still willing to help Tegan and be friendly with her. And I understand his reasons for not bowing to everyone’s expectations and being this famous singer and building on that; instead, Abdi wants to do good in the world, and even if that means going through shady means. Because it’s the only way he can. Tegan’s guardian Marie is also really well-done—I liked that she is eager to take Tegan home and help her adjust to 22nd century living. I liked that she immediately takes to being a guardian figure and genuinely wants to protect Tegan. Zaneisha is a little too cold for me to warm up to, but I liked her and Tegan’s interactions, even if most of them are Tegan trying to break Zaneisha’s exterior expression. I even really liked that we get a good idea of Tegan’s 21st century friends, Alex and Dalmar, even though they only appeared in one chapter and a flashback. While there’s really not much to the plot, I do like the situation that’s presented isn’t black and white. The government has its reasons for developing a starship, except the means to populate other planets isn’t as ethical as everyone would like. The Inheritors of the Earth seem a little more cartoonish in their plans, but I like that not all of them are treated like horrible people who just want Tegan to kill herself. Also, about the plot—it’s set up in the beginning that Tegan is narrating a broadcast to reveal the truth. And then, halfway through, she stops and says “Okay, listen we have to move. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” While it did take me out of the narrative for a bit, it was more because I’ve never seen that happen. Most stories set up like one straight long narrative don’t acknowledge that relating everything takes a long time, and I liked that it’s acknowledged here. And while the main plot of the book is wrapped up with the discovery of the starships and Tegan revealing everything, it still ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Yes, there’s a proper ending, but Tegan (and Abdi and Bethari and Joph)’s fates are left in the air. Other than that, I really couldn’t get into some of the slang Healey uses in the future. I do like that some of it sounds like a blending of cultures, like the word “Geya” as a greeting. Others…not so much. (“Ontedy.” I had to laugh because I know exactly where Healey got it.)Despite those issues, I still enjoyed the hell out of this book. I’ve made it no secret that Karen Healey is one of my favorite YA authors and I do think she’s criminally ignored on this side of the Pacific. (This is why I plan on shoving this book to as many people possible at work.) When We Wake is another great book by her, and the knowledge that there is going to be a sequel makes me both happy and impatient.