banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

BOOK REVIEW: Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler

| 23 January 2018 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler

January 2018
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Mystery / Thriller



Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.

The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

So compulsive you can’t stop reading.

So chilling you won’t stop talking about it.

A pitch-black and devastatingly original psychological thriller.



The blurb sounds interesting and enticing, curious even, but I warn you, dear reader, that it does not accurately represent the events within the novel. 

Even the title doesn’t really fit with the story.

There are so many things wrong with this book, rendering it one of the worst books I can remember reading. But it’s getting lots of rave reviews, so what do I know?

The writing itself is horribly clunky and awkward, telling the reader what is going on rather than showing them, and often spelling things out several times, while keeping other things hush, hush and obscure when they’re not particularly juicy in the first place.

The dialogue is wooden:

Patrick Ford’s eyes narrowed. ‘Her mental state! I do hope you’re not suggesting Dr Taylor is unbalanced, because I assure you she isn’t. I would know. I spend enough time with her. Do not go down that route.’

(In the quote above, he is talking to the police officer about his girlfriend of around one year.)

She eased back from him, looked him straight in the eye and told him bluntly: ‘There’s a killer on the loose. Not just a rapist. This man is a sadistic sicko. I need you to believe that last night is not a figment of my imagination, or caused by a blow to my head.’

(Here, she has been released by this “murderer” unharmed, and no other victims have shown up as yet.)

The internal monologue is beyond ridiculous:

Didn’t he want to stand up and say, ‘Well OK, Alex, let’s investigate this. You are a sane and normal person. Why on earth would you say this happened if it didn’t?’
But of course, as far as he was concerned there was no need to say this, because as far as he was concerned it didn’t happen. None of it. She had simply lost her mind and needed proper help.

Greg Turner didn’t strike her as someone who just had a thought unless there was a reason behind it, but she didn’t think he’d tell her what it was. She would have to work it out herself when she was less tired.

Alex sometimes wished he was less finicky and more like his father. The retired vet was very different to his son – animal hairs covered whatever jacket he was wearing and he always had bits of food in his pockets.

There are comments like this:

She wished she had lost her mind. She wished it was a breakdown, because then there would be some chance of piecing herself back together again, of getting on with life instead of wondering why he had let her live, why he had left her not knowing if she were raped or not.

Several minutes later he was still standing by the phone, staring bitterly at his reflection in the mirror and wondering, not for the first time, why his mother hadn’t suffocated him at birth. He was a freak and it would have been kinder to put him out of his misery.

(He has a birthmark over one side of his face, and apparently would have been better off is his mother put him out of his misery when he was an infant?)

And decisions like this:

What she couldn’t rule out, without a blood test or Breathalyser, was whether she was over the limit. The irony was not lost on her: that for the first time she wasn’t drinking out of a need to forget, and she was brought back down to earth with a bump. Such an idiot. So stupid to forget something as important as the fact she had a job to do.
She’d dismissed the thought of ringing round to see if someone else could take over her on-call, not wanting to give any further reason to anyone to shred her reputation even more.

There’s that time when the main character, who is a qualified and well-respected doctor who has worked in some of the country’s top hospitals, doesn’t understand what an emergency is:

‘Dr Taylor, you need to let the anaesthetist get to her.” Maggie Fielding stated calmly, her voice finally conveying to Alex the urgency of the situation.

And the rest of the trained medical staff stand by and let her be dazed by said emergency and only push past when the patient has died of blood loss… and then try to resuscitate her:

Immediately following Amy Abbott’s final words, the anaesthetist had none too gently pushed Alex aside and taken over. He had tried to resuscitate the woman for a further thirty minutes, with him ventilating and Nathan Bell giving chest compression.

That time when a kid hits his head hard enough that he bites through his lip and gives himself a bloody nose (and potential concussion), but a doctor stops the bleeding, so he’s been “checked over properly”:

Greg imagined he had likely shot up for the ledge, but hadn’t cleared it properly and instead crashed his head into it.
He was grateful there was no lasting damage and that he could hand Joe back to his mother with the reassurance that he had been checked over by a doctor.

And that time when the author shows how little she knows about dodgem cars:

‘The pilot presses pedals to turn the helicopter left or right, a bit like the pedals you get in a dodgem car.’


There are typos and missing words galore, it would be false praise to call any of the characters one-dimensional, there’s unnecessary animal cruelty, none of the motives of the characters make sense, they don’t ring true as working in their chosen professions, everyone is referred to by their full names whenever any of the other characters has a thought about them, the author has a shitty hold on describing things happening prior to our current narrative and making it clear it’s not happening now, and there is really nothing original here at all.

So, what is there that’s good about the book?

Chapters 1 and 15 are reasonably well paced, and it does pick up near the end, but there’s waaaaaay too much poorly-written drudge to wade through to get there.

It could potentially be an interesting exploration of the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements, examining the way society, including other women, treat victims who speak out, but the handling of it is very stereotypical, and the writing just isn’t good enough to make it worthwhile reading just for that. In addition, some of the things the character does and says are downright harmful, perpetuating the message that “victims” are actually making their story out to be a lot worse than it actually is. As someone who has legitimately been assaulted, I find this book rather insulting and potentially very harmful to any movement encouraging people to listen to women when they say something has happened to them.

Category: Book Reviews

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad