Book Review: Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

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stay awake

Publish Date: August 9, 2022

Sometime terrible is going on and I don’t have the faintest idea what it is.” – Stay Awake


Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers—a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget—permanently.


The story begins with Liv Reese waking up one morning in a cab not knowing how she got there since the last thing she remembers is being at work. Her hands and arms are covered in writing: Stay Awake, Wake Up, Don’t Listen to Anyone, I Forget Everything When I Fall Asleep and other words. Her phone is missing, she has no purse, no wallet, and she finds a bloody knife on her.

Liv has dissociative amnesia, which is memory loss caused by trauma or stress, resulting in an inability to recall important personal information. People with this amnesia have gaps in their memory, which may span a few minutes to years. When Liv goes to sleep, she forgets everything from that day and when she wakes up she thinks she’s heading to work on a normal Manhattan summer day. Imagine having this condition – it would make you go crazy too.

I’m not a big fan of the unreliable narrator perspective because I can’t trust what I’m reading from less credible sources, but Megan Goldin used this angle very effectively to tell this story. The book is written from the point of view of both Liv and Detective Halliday, the two central characters, with a dual timeline. Both are likeable characters and I rooted for both of them to overcome their challenges.

Megan Goldin delivers another entertaining thriller. She is a master of suspense and the plot kept me on my toes from the first page until the end. There are clever clues sprinkled throughout the story and I enjoyed solving the crime. Other reviewers have called this book the thriller version of the movie 50 First Dates and I agree!

The book also reminded me of Chris Bohjalian’s The Flight Attendant and Wendy Walker’s The Night Before so if you like those stories, you’ll love this one.

This book is about amnesia, murder, relationships, memories, deception, lies, and love. I really enjoyed Megan Goldin’s books The Escape Room and The Night Swim, and this story is just as good. This book is a captivating, fast paced read that will make you Stay Awake and read this until the very last page.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 4 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley exchange for an honest review.

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