Wednesday, March 2, 2016
I was immediately drawn to Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson by the gorgeous cover and the tag line -“Dreams come true. So do nightmares”. Who could resist a cover like that? Dea Donahue has had anything but a normal life. Her mother fears mirrors, obsesses over clocks and locks, she’s never met her father, they keep moving from place to place and, to put the icing on the dysfunctional cake, she has the ability to travel through other people’s dreams. Her ability is also a curse. If she doesn’t dream-walk she becomes physically ill. Dea’s entire life gets turned upside down when she meets Connor, a boy with dark secrets of his own. As the dream world starts to bleed into reality it brings dire consequences and uncomfortable truths...
Dea, her friend Gollum and Connor are engaging and believable characters. You can’t help but to fall in love with the quirky group of outsiders and how their respective relationships change over the course of the novel. There is a romantic connection between Dea and Connor from the start, but thankfully Dreamland stays away from that favourite of YA tropes – insta-love – opting instead for a more normal route as their friendship slowly develops into a relationship. (That’s if spying on the dreams of your crush can be viewed as normal. Yes, it IS a tad creepy.)
The writing is beautiful - descriptive and at times profound and funny. Dea has a cynical and guarded outlook on the world and that comes through strongly in the writing.
“ ... Fielding School, serving grades kindergarten to dropout.” (p 36)
“The rain drummed against the glass like thousands of tiny feet making a run for something better” (p 67)
“She knew, better than anyone, that reality was a tricky thing: shifting, tissue-thin, difficult to grasp” (p 162)
“This was reality: the day came, whether you wanted it or not”
The pacing was quite slow during the first half of the novel with some parts that felt unnecessary to the progression of the overall story. Thankfully the pace picks up considerably towards the end as things draw to a satisfying, albeit somewhat abrupt conclusion. While Dreamland is a standalone novel it is obviously intended as part of a series with the stage being set for bigger, better things.
I loved the premise and the brief time spent in the dream world was fascinating. There are quite a few parallels to be drawn to Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately the dream world, which is undoubtedly the most interesting part, gets set aside midway in favour of resolving the mystery of Connor’s past. I would much rather have spent the time exploring the mysteries and revelations of Dea’s heritage and everything the kingdom of dreams implies. Hopefully a sequel will be able to deliver on the promise of all the possibilities left so tantalizingly unexplored.
Dreamland isn’t without issues. The relationship between Dea and Connor occasionally comes too close to the clichéd, overdone approach most YA novels have to love. There are some plot holes that become apparent if you look too closely and start to question the premise too much. For the keen eyed, the reveal at the end might also be too predictable. That being said, this was an engaging debut with a truly intriguing premise; the execution might need some work, but there’s definitely huge potential here.
Dreamland is an intriguing YA novel about friendship, love and facing uncomfortable truths. The dream world aspect of the novel is sadly left largely unexplored, becoming a brief aside to, what turns out to be a murder mystery revolving around Connor’s past. If you can look past the flaws this is a very enjoyable read with a great premise and loveable characters. A promising debut with huge potential. Hopefully a sequel is already in the works.
The Rating: 6/10 (Good)
Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.