Randall, Thomas. The Waking: Dreams of the Dead.
Bloomsbury see St. Martins 2009 276p 8.99 978-1-59990-250-0 hs
Kara Foster moves to Japan to attend a traditional Japanese school where her father will teach. At school she soon learns that a female student had been murdered and more students continue to die in mysterious circumstances. Kara is caught up in an apparent supernatural mystery when clues start to appear in her dreams. After the death of her mother Kara Foster goes to Japan with her father, the new English teacher at the Monju-no-Chie school. Kara is the only Western student at the school and while learning about Japanese school culture she is finding that in many ways the students that she encounters are like those at home.
Luckily Kara is able to make friends with a few girls that take her under their wing and a romance with one of the popular boys seems to be developing as well.
Not long after arriving Kara learns that a young female student recently died in mysterious circumstance and that one of her new friends, Sakura, is the younger sister of the victim. When visiting a shrine that the students made for the murdered girl, Kara has a frightening encounter with what seems to be a ghost cat, one that keeps appearing in her dreams. Dreams that are awash in blood. Other people are having these dreams too. Gradually the dreams take possession of Kara even during the day.
Not every student likes Kara and she is constantly harassed by a clique that tries to bully her. Some members of the clique also die violently. By the end of the novel Kara and her friends have learned the significance of the cat that keeps appearing in dreams and they develop a plan to stop the evil that has invaded their school.
The story is reminiscent of Manga at its best. The cultural detail is fascinating and the incorporation of the supernatural and Japanese mythology sensational. The Japanese characters are simultaneously familiar and yet exotic. However,one of the most striking feature here is how the situation of being a new school and feeling foreign, thinking you’ll never fit in is universal.