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Book Review

This supernatural realism book by Lisa McMann is the first in the " Wake" trilogy and is published by Simon Pulse, a division of Simon and Schuster.

Wake is written for kids ages 14 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Plot Summary

Christian beliefs

Authority roles

Other belief systems

Profanity/Graphic violence




Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Seventeen-year-old Janie Hannagan has a unique problem. She falls into other people's dreams. Up until high school she was able to hide her ability, but now, with students falling asleep in class, Janie's finding it difficult to keep her classmates from learning her secret.

Cabel Strumheller, another high school student, worries that Janie is having seizures, not knowing she is falling into other people's dreams. She assures him that she's fine. He tries to comfort her but his empathy turns to anger after he sees her in one of his dreams. Later, she explains that she has no control over her ability, and he forgives her. Cabel is the first person to learn of Janie's gift.

As time goes on, Janie finds herself falling in love with Cabel, but she refuses to talk to him for several weeks after hearing rumors that he is actually a drug pusher and dating another girl. During that time, she takes on extra hours at her job at a nursing home. There, she finds herself being pulled into the residents' dreams, too. When Janie enters the dream of one blind woman, Martha Stubin, she is surprised because the woman speaks to her in the dream. When Miss Stubin dies, she leaves Janie a little money for college and lets her know that she, too, was a "dream catcher."

Janie begins to read all she can about dreams and how to change them. Slowly, she learns to affect the outcome of her own nightmares. Then one day in study hall, Cabel falls asleep near her, and she slips into his dream. During the dream, he writes Janie notes telling her that the rumors about him aren't true and that he loves her. After school he takes her to the police station to meet his boss, Captain Fran Komisky. The captain explains that Cabel is working undercover at the school to try and break up a drug ring. While in the captain's office, Janie falls into another officer's dream. She uses her new knowledge to help the man alter his nightmare. Captain Fran is not surprised at Janie's talent; she was acquainted with Miss Stubin, who had used her dream-catching talent to help the police on several difficult cases.

Late one night Janie's best friend, Carrie, calls from jail. She needs someone to bail her out after the police raided a party. When Janie arrives at the precinct, she learns that as a minor she's not allowed to post bail. When she goes back to the holding cell to tell her friend, she sees Cabel and several other students as well. Cabel points out a man in the cell who is about to fall asleep. Janie understands that this is the pusher the captain is hoping to get evidence on. Janie finds a bench around the corner to sit on so if he dreams, she'll slip into it. Later, she is able to tell the captain that the man dreamed of trying to save a bunch of life jackets from his yacht during a storm. But instead of floating, the jackets dragged him underwater. The captain uses the information to find the drugs hidden on the pusher's boat. The captain offers Janie a monetary reward, a job contract and a scholarship that will help her pay for college if she agrees to work on more cases with the police.

Janie doesn't accept or refuse the job, but the reader infers that she has accepted the Captain's offer to work with the police while finishing high school because the book ends at a farewell party for her at the nursing home.

Christian Beliefs

Janie thinks the man in her mother's dreams looks like Jesus.

Other Belief Systems

After Miss Stubin dies, she appears in a dream Janie is pulled into. Miss Stubin is able to help the dreamer change the outcome of his nightmare. She also appears in Janie's nightmare and tells her how to change it.

Authority Roles

Janie's mother is an alcoholic who seems unaware of her daughter's existence. Cabel's mother abandoned him and his brother when they were young. His father doused him in gasoline and lit him on fire. Cabel has burns over his chest and stomach. Captain Fran Komisky acts tough but is a sympathetic mother figure to Cabel. The drug pusher the captain hopes to catch is actually the father of one of their classmates.


Janie and her friends' dialogue is laced with profanity including: the f-word, d--n, h---, a--, a--hole, s---, bulls---, b--tard and d--k. Jesus' name is used as an exclamation, as is Christ. Sometimes both names are used together. God's name is used in vain with oh, d--mit, good, thank, by and hope to. Other language used: pee, frigging, freaking, boobs and pissed.

Many of the dreams Janie enters are graphic nightmares. One resident in the nursing home dreams about a blood-filled war battle. His body breaks into pieces as the dream goes on. Janie knows from previous experience that he will shatter into dust as the enemy approaches. One night the resident is able to speak to Janie while dreaming. He begs for her help and then gives her his rifle. She points it at him, shoots, then wakes up to find that he has died in real life. Cabel has recurring dreams of growing knives for fingers and stabbing his father, who tried to kill him. This dream sometimes includes decapitating his father and kicking the head like a soccer ball. He also dreams of the day his father tried to kill him.

Carrie repeatedly dreams of her younger brother drowning. Janie dreams of drowning in a lake with the dead bodies of babies, children, teens and adults, who are all around her.


The book opens with Janie slipping into the dream of a classmate who dreams he is naked on the football field during a big game. She comments that he thinks he's more endowed than he really is. Janie recalls the first time she remembers falling into another person's dream when she was 8 years old. A fellow traveler on a train dreamed of being in his underwear at work.

Kissing and sexual fantasies are prevalent throughout Wake. Melinda Jeffries, a girl who hates Janie, has explicit dreams of kissing Carrie. In the dream, Carrie appears with enlarged breasts. Later, Melinda dreams of having sex with Carrie and another girl at the same time. Carrie's dream entails having sex with her boyfriend multiple times in the same dream. Before Cabel and Janie start dating, he dreams of kissing her. Janie is angry when she sees him dreaming about having sex with a girl who is handcuffed to a bed. Janie hears rumors of Cabel and this same girl having sex in real life.

After they begin dating, Janie and Cabel kiss passionately on several occasions. Janie takes off Cabel's shirt to see the burn scars. When she kisses them he breaks down and weeps. Several times they go to sleep together on the same bed.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Janie's mother is an alcoholic and is usually seen with a drink in her hand. Janie and Carrie often drink alcohol together.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

14 and up


Lisa McMann






Record Label



Simon Pulse, a division of Simon and Schuster


On Video

Year Published



Abraham Lincoln Book Award Master List, 2011


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