• Lisa Hodorovych

I Can't Sleep Will Hit Home for Some

While reading I Can’t Sleep by J.E. Rowney, I found myself not only taking in the story, but also connecting with the main character, Rebecca Braithwaite (“Becky”) on a pretty deep level. Becky is an insomniac who hasn’t properly slept in two years. She also lost a sibling in an accident, which is what’s causing the insomnia, and the way she thinks about herself and about others, it all reminded me of myself. It was honestly a little freaky reading her story, her thoughts and realizing, “Yeah, I’ve been there.”

What is I Can't Sleep About?

Becky Braithwaite is a young woman – freshman in college – who, if you haven’t figured it out yet, can’t sleep. Her and her brother were in a terrible accident two years ago where she unfortunately lost him. They were close. He was older, so he was always there for her, he protected her. However, ever since that horrible day, June 16, 2018, she hasn’t been able to sleep. That day haunts her. Her lack of sleep haunts her. What will she do to be able to live her life like a “normal person”? Read and find out.

My Own Flashback

The writing in I Can’t Sleep is so well done. J.E. Rowney is from England, so the writing is a little different; especially since you get the proper spelling of words: “realization” is “realisation”, “color” is “colour”, etc. It brought me back to my junior year in college (or “in university”) when I studied abroad in England. Since I was a Creative Writing major, I mainly took English Literature courses, so I read a plethora of books from England’s great writers like Angela Carter, Graham Greene, and, of course, William Shakespeare. Reading this book was not only sad and heartbreaking for me, but also a lovely reminder of my time in England.

Sorry, I got a little sidetracked there. Let’s get back to this incredible book, shall we?

Breaking the "Fourth Wall Barrier"

One of the many things I really liked about I Can’t Sleep is Rowney’s writing style. She wrote it in a way where you feel like Becky is talking to you because…well she kind of is. There’re times throughout the story where Rowney will break the “fourth wall barrier” and have Becky talking to you. It happens as you first start reading it on the second page of the book, “I don’t want to talk about that yet. We’ll get to it. I promise.”

This writing style I love because it really makes the reader feel like they’re a part of the story. The reader can “suspend disbelief” for a moment and believe that this is something real; believe that this is really happening and they’re going to be a part of it.

My Connection to I Can't Sleep

Speaking of, another reason I really liked this book is because I connected – I guess you can say on an emotional level – with Becky. I felt her pain. I have suffered like she has. And if you’re lucky enough to not have experienced insomnia or the loss of a loved one, Rowney makes sure you still feel for Ms. Becky Braithwaite.

Just the way Rowney starts off the book, your heart immediately goes out to Becky. “It wasn’t always like this. Once I could fall asleep anywhere at any time. Once I could head for an early night, take a good book to read, intend to finish a chapter, and wake up the next morning with my face on the page and my book light still glaring. Once I could sleep through a whole series of alarms, only to be woken by my mum shaking me, telling me that I was late for school. If you are able to sleep, you take it for granted. It’s a physiological process. It just happens. Living without sleep is hell. Try it.”

As you continue reading, you might find yourself feeling for Becky and wondering what in the world happened to her for her to be like this. You’re able to see that she’s been through a lot and you just want to help her. However, for me, there was a stronger connection with this character. Her sleep deprivation, the loss of a sibling, the way she thinks…there were certain times I was reading this and thinking, “Oh my goodness, that’s me!”


Another thing I really liked about I Can’t Sleep is the description Rowney uses throughout. She does it so well that you feel like you’re there seeing what Becky sees, feeling what Becky feels, or hearing what Becky hears. One great example – that is by far my favorite in any book I’ve read – is when Becky incessantly receives a call from an “Unknown Caller”. The first couple of times she answers, she can hear background noises, she can hear someone breathing, but no one answers. No “Hello”, “What up”, or anything like that. The way she describes this is fantastic. It’s a “non-silent silence.”

There was one description though that really stood out for me. It really made you feel for Becky because you feel her sadness, her pain, her “craziness” if you will. It’s really disheartening. At one point, Rowney wrote, “The thing about never sleeping, one of the things about never sleeping, is that I am constantly exhausted. I feel like my body is on the edge of a precipice, like I’m constantly teetering on the brink. Trapped in some sort of in-between state.”

This is where a teared-up because I know this feeling. I’ve been there – in the past and recently – and it’s not fun. For those of you who suffer from insomnia, please know you are not alone and if you need help, please seek it.

One Negative for I Can't Sleep

I must say though, the only thing that bothered me about I Can’t Sleep is the slow build-up of the story. I feel like it takes some time before you learn about Becky, her past, etc. and this time around I became a little impatient. However, it does draw you into the story because you want to continue reading to find out what happens next. You want to learn all that you can about Becky Braithwaite. But the ending is a twist you may or may not see coming.

My Recommendation

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book for anybody who loves suspense/thrillers, especially ones that mess with the mind. But I also recommend this for anyone who has been through what Becky has been through. It was a little cathartic to be reading her story and realizing there are others who have been “in your shoes”. I also just love reading a story where I can empathize with the character and understand their situation. It draws you into the story more…or at least it did for me.

If you want to learn more about J.E. Rowney and her other books (as this is her fourth novel), please visit her website.

Policies and Disclosure

Please remember I am not getting paid to write this review. I am just a fan and fellow author helping out another great author. To learn more, please check out my Policy page. Also, I would love to hear what you think of this review and of the book, if you’ve read it. You can either comment below (please read my “Comments Policy” on the Policy page before doing so) or contact me.

Photo Credit

The photo(s) featured in this post were given to me by J.E. Rowney for that very purpose.

**This post was originally published on October 23, 2020**