Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

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“The only thing more dangerous than a lie… is the truth.”

— Kathleen Barber, Are You Sleeping

    Imagine leaving behind a huge chunk of your past in order to start fresh, to unburden yourself and to look forward rather than behind. This is the dream that every person chases after when they realize their lives have hit rock-bottom. But the past has other plans for them. Never does it truly disappear or leave you alone. It rather lurks around in the shadow until a golden opportunity arises. Are You Sleeping is Kathleen Barber’s debut thriller and already receives praise as being a harmonious mix between hit podcast Serial and best-selling author Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood. As inaccurate as these comparisons often end up being, this is one that definitely highlights this books strengths. Are You Sleeping is the story of Josie as one of her family’s tragedy is dragged out of the darkest corners of her life by investigative journalist Poppy Parrell through her new sensational podcast Reconsidered. The question that now haunts both Josie and the readers is: What will be brought to light after so many years of silence?

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   Told through the eyes of Josie, the story jumps back and forth between the past and present as we slowly learn about the protagonists life and what had made her scram from her family to begin anew in New York alongside a boyfriend who is completely oblivious to her past. While the transition isn’t explicit and sometimes requires a couple of lines before realizing that you’re back in the past or in the present, the exploration of both lives, in different timelines, help us enlighten ourselves on the downright questionable things that were peppered all over Josie’s life. Clues and traps were spread around, making us sometimes wonder if we should always take everything told for granted or take a step backwards and question the veracity of everything we read. Josie’s character also highlights some very impulsive or sometimes very absent behaviours throughout the book as she is slapped left and right by her past life. Every time she hopes to stay clear of it and wants to avoid this podcast at all cost, she finds herself compelled to learn more and succumb to her curiosity. What she once thought was the truth slowly becomes a fragile thing ready to shatter into a million pieces.

   Are You Sleeping also incorporates original text formatting by simulating twitter conversations and reddit threads within the story. While at first I feared these would seem a bit too stereotypical, they turned out to play out quite well. In fact, I felt like they had a touch of humour within the limited amount of comments and replies that were showcased, instead of being entirely serious and drain out the realism behind these social media platforms. Of course, a book that receives comparisons to Serial surely doesn’t do so without having something related to podcasts somewhere in the book. Kathleen Barber does so by adding a couple of episodes of her podcasts in the form of transcript extracts that don’t take more than a couple of pages. These in fact serve as a catalyst to the stories mystery and pushes every character on the edge as all the concerned actors are thrown into the blender alongside their unwanted past history. Although the journalist’s credibility is always questioned, she remains an outside figure, just like the reader, and highlights her theories regarding what truly happened behind the murder that haunts the family. This easily lifts the reader’s task in coming up with hypothesis, but also forces us to think harder for what might be the finale. I think this was a bit counterproductive since I honestly thought it narrowed down the options for plot twists by assumed that any hypothesis that are written black on white wouldn’t be the endgame here.

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   Kathleen Barber’s debut thriller remains an excellent beginning to what seems to be a great writing career. Her ability to draw troubled characters offers us solid entertainment and her unique story-telling features (podcast, twitter and reddit) gives us a nice a little change of the typical thriller. Although it isn’t action-packed and as dark as you might want it, Are You Sleeping remains fun and captivating from start to finish. The author’s writing style is also really engaging and never hindered the reading experience. If you’re looking for something slightly different from your usual thriller, take a chance with Kathleen Barber. Her characters are original and every single one of them show us a face of themselves that would potentially indicate their culpability or troubled personalities. I’d definitely be curious to know if Kathleen Barber’s next books will continue with another mystery that Poppy will untangle through her podcast #Reconsidered.


THANK YOU TO SIMON & SCHUSTER CANADA FOR SENDING ME A COPY FOR REVIEW!

Are you interested in Are You Sleeping?
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆/

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22 thoughts on “Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thanks man. Funny thing is, I was only familiar with Ruth Ware and had never heard of Serial before hahah I ain’t much of a podcast person at all though, so it isn’t much of a surprise. 😛 It was definitely a nice debut thriller by the author. I’m glad it didn’t flop for me. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Inge | The Belgian Reviewer says:

    I like something different and I’m a fan of Serial so this integration of popular media platforms and podcasts makes me even more interested. It’s a shame that several hypothesis are already up in the air and therefore highly unlikely to be true… I can only hope the real twist is even better. I like the cover but it’s so bright that I didn’t think it could hold all this within its pages. A pleasant surprise!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Ohhw, a fan of Serial. I’d be curious to see how you’d fair with this book and the way the story is told. It’s definitely a bit sad that the podcast lady pretty much mirrors out own personal role as a reader in trying to uncover the truth, but it also makes us focus on other details. In all honesty, I’m not the biggest fan of the cover, but I’m glad that the story was a nice surprise. 😛 Thank you so much for reading, Inge! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bookstooge says:

    I wonder how books with things like twitter feeds and reddit comments will age. Will people look back on them like we look back on Asimov’s “computers” and his Multitron idea, or will those things have mutated into something that is still used and everyone will know that Twitter was the first try at SuperDuperFoxMeow? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Hahahha SuperDuperFoxMeow. That’s a mouthful. 😛 That’s definitely a nice remark. I think what Asimov comes up with, and some other authors too, is far more impressive and has a greater chance at surviving the test of time compared to “REAL” social media platforms like twitter and reddit that are integrated within the book in their own fancy little text formatting. I think in 10 years, or less, these bits of the book will feel… amateur’ish? to readers who are seeking a mind-blowing thriller. Who knows. Maybe it’ll be nostalgic and people will adore it…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer says:

    Hi Lashaan, great review! I love when social media is incorporated well into a book! It can add a lot when I feel like it’s a necessary part of the story and used in an authentic way! Is this genuinely like a thriller or more a mystery?

    I also enjoy it when the past and present co-habitate (though confusion about which time is an issue)… so many mysteries are built on this premise of the past affecting the present… it seems she really segregated both sides of her life and it effected what she tells the reader! Honestly it sounds fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Hey Dani! 😀 Thank you! I’m 50/50 when it comes to social media in book (like.. when you literally see the design of a tweet or reddit thread being incorporated in the middle of text). It wasn’t so bad in this one, that’s for sure. This whole mystery or psychological thriller deal is sort of too vague in my books to truly answer… I mean.. I’d say any thriller can be mystery. However, I can say that this one isn’t a detective mystery story, the classic kind with a murder, a detective and a search for answers. It’s more in trend with what surged in the last couple of years as psychological thrillers (with Gone Girl and Girl on the Train stuff).

      So true! I think… 90% of thrillers nowadays will use the whole “past/present” combo. Fun is definitely what I’d qualify this one! 😀 Thanks for reading, Dani!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks says:

    Twitter and Reddit seems very interesting 🙂 I love it how they use these more and more in books, and I don’t just mean current tools, it’s more like the format – books like Gemina, etc. I enjoy that format a lot 🙂
    By the way, I only glanced at your follower number now! Mind = blown! How long have you and your co-blogger had this blog? It’s the dream xD

    Liked by 1 person

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