Wake Me Up
Four students from Chris Bullet’s Middleton, Montana, high school viciously beat him up because they earmark Chris to be gay. It is 2004, an election year. As “the Presidential cycle warps into full-blooded hatred of anyone gay, anyone different, and fills political campaign war chests,” Chris lies comatose at a children’s hospital. In an out-of-body experience, Chris views various people and their situations, such as the goings on in his school and also the fictional story loosely based on Chris’ demise written by Deepika, his father’s lover. While the affair is disconcerting to Chris, this is only the beginning of the drama that unfolds within his dysfunctional family, especially when his dad attempts suicide.
Justin Bog punctuates the sexual stigmatization that results from a bigoted societal mindset in Wake Me Up. Divided into four sections, Bog uses the Greek Chorus in parts one and four to present the collective voice of the many characters of whom Chris observes during his astral travel. Narrated by Chris, Bog’s first-person plot constantly alternates between Chris’ observances, character scenes, Chris’ childhood and school recollections, and the moments leading up to Chris’ attack. Key to many of Bog’s character scenes, which function like substories, is how he highlights sexual bondage. Good examples include the student who runs out of Chris’ mom’s English Literature class with no explanation after being harassed by other students, Deepika’s personal and familial lives, specific characters in her story based on Chris, and Chris’ dad’s past.
Bog’s attractive writing style, set to present tense, combines storytelling via the narrator and engaging dialogue. Although homosexuality is a top theme, Bog focuses much of his attention on relationship building: Chris’ dad’s issues with depression and suicide, his mom’s MS diagnosis, and Deepika’s decisions to move on with her life. As the story builds, so does Chris’ case, because all four boys are identified as his attackers. Wake Me Up is well written, thought-provoking, and a definite must-read by all!