The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students' lives is televised as pa...moreThe Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there. - Summary from Goodreads
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Goodreads’ First Reads, and I cannot put into words how excited I was when I found out that I had scored a copy of this book. The premise sounded very unique, and even with that small synopsis, I already had images in my head of a Matrix-like world where the people of this reality show were thrust into the dreams of others and that there was going to be a big mystery about why this would be a bad thing. Unfortunately, I didn’t get what I had hoped for and it is with a heavy heart that I write this review.
I will do like I usually do with my reviews and touch on the characters and plot separately before doing an overall view of what I thought, but I want to start off by saying that the writing is not bad! In fact, I like the author’s style of writing very much. She is very talented and there were parts in the book that were really fantastic (I’ll discuss those later). This being said, I did not like the book, and to me, it feels like a first draft. I feel that if some things had been trimmed and other things expounded on and explored more, the amazing, unique science fiction story I had been hoping for would have been a reality.
That being said, let’s get on with the review.
First things first: time to talk about characters. Characters can make or break a book for me- even if the story is subpar, if there are a collection of entertaining characters, I will still be able to enjoy the book. The problem with this book is that the characters were basically defined by the talents that landed them on the show. They didn’t have any distinguishing personalities. In fact, I remember them by the talents. There was that one chick that liked to dance, there was another that was doing some kind of female-Hamlet thing, and then there was a rich boy who did stuff with computer games. The main character is Rosie and she is… well… interesting, and not in such a good way. She is rebellious, but she has no real reason to be rebellious except for the fact that… she is rebellious. On the surface, there is nothing suspicious about the Forge Show so why would she suddenly stop following the rules? Especially since breaking the rules could get her expelled and she needs to stay in school or she has little to no options for her future. Her rebellion starts to make a little more sense as she starts to figure out something is going on, but for the first two-thirds of the book, she has little to go on and it doesn’t seem quite enough to believe that she would risk everything she is working toward on what little she has. This seems to be a trend with the characters in this book- there is not enough characterization. People just do things because the story needs them to do things. There isn’t much of a reason behind them. I still have no idea why the male lead likes Rosie. All she does is get him into trouble and act crazy. There is simply no chemistry between them. But in all honesty, the characters might have been fine with a wee bit more of development- the main problem of the book for me was…
The plot. Remember when I said that this book sounded as if it was going to be an epic science fiction thing about people’s dreams and sinister goings-on? Well, sit back and relax because for the first two-thirds of the book, there is nothing about dreams. I am not kidding. In fact, they make a point of saying that the people who take these sleeping pills do. not. dream. The first two-thirds of the book is basically Rosie being rebellious for no real reason and running around trying to play detective when she doesn’t have much of a reason to play detective- at least not at first. Weird things do start happening as you get farther in, but the mystery takes a backseat while in the forefront is a strange sort of love triangle between the male lead and that computer game developing rich guy I mentioned before. Rich boy just likes her- there is no real reason, he just does. Male lead likes her, too; also for… no real reason. Then there is stuff about the school and the reality show, and there are a lot of strange plot points thrown in that are never really explained. For one thing, she starts having these weird hallucinations and black outs that are kinda sorta half explained at the end. Then she starts hearing a voice inside of her head that talks to her and acts like a separate identity, but that is NEVER explained. Never.
And in true thriller/horror/mystery story fashion, everyone at the school thinks she has lost her mind. This would have been fine except that the story is written in such a way that you know she isn’t crazy. The whole point of that kind of plot device is to keep the reader guessing about whether things are real or not, but this book doesn’t do that.
When you get passed that two-thirds mark, things actually start getting kinda good. She sneaks around and finds some pretty bizarre things that are going on at the school. But then in a really strange plot point, (view spoiler)[ she is forced to sign a contract that says if she doesn’t stop spouting all of this ‘crazy’ talk about the school’s shady stuff, the head of the school will be made her legal guardian? It’s… the weirdest thing. Her parents are just like “Well, I guess we will believe this guy we don’t know over our daughter and sign away our parental rights so that she can get put into a good looney bin when/if she does turn out to be bonkers.” What even kind of logic is that? What kind of parents would sign that? What kind of government would allow that? (hide spoiler)]
Which leads to another problem: there is no real world building. For the longest time, I had no idea if the story was supposed to be set in present time or the future and you hear about the school and a little about the town nearby, but that’s about it. But by far the thing that aggravated me the most was the ending. The book had finally started to get good and the last few scenes were fantastic, but then… (view spoiler)[ it just ENDS. I have no idea if the main chick lived or died or what even happened to her. She finds out that the people at the school have been mining dreams FOR SOME REASON and planting them in other people’s brains for… some reason. I think it had something to do with curing diseases or something I don’t even know. But anyway, I digress, she gets kidnapped and dragged to this place so they can harvest her dreams and she… I’m not even sure how to describe it. She and her inner voice have a kind of weird argument and then she just… goes off… into a bright light? Or something? Does she live? Does she die? WHO KNOWS! (hide spoiler)]
Overall, the writing was good. The characters were okay, but they could have done with a little more characterization. The plot would have been great if the first two thirds had been removed and it started closer to the end, when the focus is actually on the mysterious happenings at the school instead of everyone saying that Rosie is crazy and her whining about everyone saying she is crazy. I wanted to know more about the vault of dreamers itself and less about the reality show and her dealings with the other random people. Also, there were several plot points that seemed to be just thrown in, but never really explained. It was a great idea, just not executed the way it should have been in my humble opinion.
It gets a two star rating instead of a one star because, as I said, the writer is talented and the writing itself was good.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
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