Publisher: Gravity (2016)
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A teenage boy lies in a coma, mentally reliving the events leading up to his attack by a gang of classmates on a random wilding spree.

From his hospital bed, Chris Bullet suffers the aftermath of being cornered, mocked, and bludgeoned by boys who have correctly sensed his vulnerability (from their viewpoint)—he is gay, though Chris tries to hide it.  Comatose, Chris “sees” through closed eyes the hidden actions, fears, loves, and guilt of those whose lives intersect his.

Why did Ellis, the boy Chris secretly desired, join his attackers?  Why is Geoff, Chris’ lawyer father, so depressed, and indeed, suicidal? Why does Chris’ poetess/professor mother clamp the lid so tightly on her feelings? In the middle of this triangle, is a visiting writer named Deepika who begins an affair with Geoff, is going to have his “love” child, Chris’s half-sibling. All the while, Deepika may be running away from her own fate. Somehow, Chris walks in the minds of these people and others, slowly comprehending what led to his attack. At times he accesses an alter ego, the main character in Deepika’s latest collection of short fiction—Sai, a quick-witted, openly gay newspaper reporter.

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.

Bog’s Wake Me Up is a mind-tickling read, combining a headline-grabbing story (defenseless boy battered to mental oblivion by brutish thugs), an over-arching theme (how do we as a society handle hate crime?), and a line-up of complex characters subtly analyzed and connected in the mind of a brilliant, hypersensitive, but comatose adolescent.

Wake Me Up is a trip through the brain of an injured teenage boy whose supercharged perceptions expose the secret sins of those he wants to love and hopes to believe in.