Saturday, 20 April 2013

Review: Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Book: Dreamland
Author: Sarah Dessen
Release Date: May 11, 2004
Publisher: Speak
Pages: 250
Source: bought
Stars: 5/5
Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real. Rogerson is different from anyone Caitlin has ever known. He's magnetic. He's compelling. He's dangerous. Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else--her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life. But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him? 


Disclaimer: The following review might seem slightly melodramatic, but trust me, it's not melodramatic for me

Sarah Dessen has delivered something that is not typical of her books. She has delivered a haunting, heart-pounding story of a girl who struggles to find out who she is. The book was raw and intense, words that I seriously cannot believe I'm using to describe one of Sarah Dessen's books. But to be honest, this one seems to have a silver lining surrounding it, making it truly different and unique from her other books. The other books, of course, are wonderful--anyone who knows me knows that I am a diehard Sarah fan. But this one--just something about it was beautiful, even though the book was filled with painful, tear-worthy scenes that made me clench my fists so hard that my knuckles turned completely white.

If you've ever read a Sarah Dessen novel, then you know what you're coming into. You can expect a fast-moving, slightly addicting story with a strong and unique heroine, whether he be a tough and no-shit Remy or a quiet and transparent Caitlin, and a guy, whether he be a clumsy and lovable Dexter or, in this book's case, a penetrative, dark, and enigmatic Rogerson. Even though I knew that there would be a teenage protagonist and her boyfriend, I never would have expected this. I didn't know what I was getting into when I went into this book, and I have to say, it gave me a surprise. Even though Sarah Dessen's books are sometimes slightly mindless, this one radiated off desperation and pain. Through the pages, I could feel Caitlin's pain, her sense that things weren't real and she was in some kind of dreamland, and after I finished it, my head and heart felt sore, as if something had been repeatedly twisting them up into knots.

As a character, Rogerson was interesting. And I hate to use the word interesting as it is so ambiguous, but interesting perfectly describes his character.  The reader doesn't get a great sense of him, other than the fact that he is exceptionally smart and, ultimately, abusive. The way he treated Caitlin made me so angry that sometimes I wanted to tear the pages of the book (don't worry, I didn't), or read faster, hoping that his abuse would stop.  But then, Caitlin mentions several times that his father beats him, so Rogerson's pain is taken out on Caitlin. This by NO means makes it okay (it's the most not-ok thing ever...) but it made me think, Hell, what's wrong with the world? Why are people so unhappy? And why do they take it out on people that they love? Because to be honest, I think that somewhere deep down, Rogerson loved Caitlin, just like she loved him. But through his anger and emotional struggles, he didn't love her, he abused her.

Caitlin reminds me, coincidentally, of Echo from Saving Zoe, in the sense that her older sister is really, really beautiful and amazing and sets the bar for the younger sister's success extremely high, and that she is almost trying to be her sister now that she is gone. Of course, Caitlin's and Echo's sisters were gone in different ways, but still, the books seemed like practically shadows of each other. Sisterhood is a really mind-boggling concept. My sister is 10 years older than me and is beautiful, smart, and successful, you name it. Although we are ultimately fairly equal, I have often felt as if I have to be just like her, even though no one ever told me this directly.

I couldn't stop thinking of the song Haunted by Taylor Swift as I was reading this book. For those of you who don't know, the song goes: "Come on, come on don't leave me like this, I thought I had you figured out. Something's gone terribly wrong, you're all I wanted." Although Taylor Swift is clearly not singing about physical abuse, the song seems to run deeper than what she is actually singing about, and I every time Caitlin expressed her fear of Rogerson, it seemed like the song was on repeat in my head.

When I was reading this book, I felt so much pain by it that I wanted it to be over. I wanted Caitlin's pain to end and for the ending to somehow be happy. And while this book ending was not happy, it also wasn't tragic like I expected it to be. Although this is kind of a bold thing to compare it to, the feelings I got reminded me so much of how I felt during The Fault in Our Stars--like I wanted it to end so the pain of the characters could be over. For a while, during the book, I just silently cried, tears running down my face. And when I finished it, I was all set to give it 2 or 3 stars because of how terrible it made me feel.

But then I was reminded of the fact that if a book makes that strong an impact on you, then it must be a good book because the writer is doing a good job. So instead, I give it 5 stars because of the way it made me feel empty.

Dreamland was a mysterious, haunting book. Although I seem to say this about every Sarah Dessen book, this one is the one that REALLY stands out, and I think the silver lining around it will always stay there, making the experience of reading this book an incredible experience. Just writing this review, reflecting on my thoughts, has realized how much this book made me think about life in general. A beautiful book. Sarah, you've done it yet again.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't enjoy this as much as you did for reasons I do not even understand. I love Sarah Dessen and while this book was undoubtedly great writing-wise, I just wasn't feeling it.

    Oh my gosh, how did I not think of it before? That verse in Haunted describes the Rogerson/Caitlin relationship perfectly! The eeriness of the song really builds up an atmosphere of danger which totally fits the abuse scenes in Dreamland.

    Great review, Annie!


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