Gemma's Reviews > Dreamland

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
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's review
Apr 09, 2011

liked it
Read in April, 2011

It's like this: Sarah Dessen sits at her desk, clicks her pen back and forth. "What riveting new relationship drama can I write about now?" Click click click. 'Love the Way you Lie' comes on the radio (yes, I know that song came out six years after this was published; I'm exaggerating). Ding! "Abusive teen relationships!" she exclaims, pulls up Microsoft Word, and starts writing.

In reality, that's probably not what she did. But that's how this book felt like.

It didn't seem realistic to me. Is it ironic to ridicule a book called 'Dreamland' about not being realistic? I don't know. It's labeled as realistic fiction, but it wasn't right. Her other books that I've read (all two of them) all seemed very realistic. You got to know the characters, you even started liking them most of the time.

This book didn't have that. Cassie was the 1-D runaway girl, Caitlin was her younger sister who moved robotically, Rina was the buddy, and Corinna was the wise older character. Rogerson was a plot device. She needed someone to play the abuser so she could get that issue in there, and Rogerson just happened to get cast as that.

I've seen Sarah Dessen make likeable male characters. Elie, Wes... I liked them. They were developed. Rogerson wasn't developed. I didn't particularly care about him. I mean, I know he's abusive, yes, but Caitlin claims to be 'in love' with him. If she's in love with him, he must have some appealing qualities, even if they're not genuine.

We never see these qualities. One minute he's this 1-D rebel guy, the next, he's this 1-D rebel guy who hits his girlfriend. That's all we really know about him. She could have done a much better job with Rogerson. Instead, she just kind of tosses him out there so she can get the issue across.

It wasn't a real book. The characters weren't real, the situations were glossed over. She'll mention going to photography lessons once, and then there's no real follow up. She portayed it as though it was going to be a main theme, but it never was developed enough to have any importance at all. Same with cheerleading, ice skating, her entire relationship with Rogerson... It was one of those mention it once and then zoom out and let the reader assume it's still happening.

The entire book seemed too staged. Too faked, like we're reading about a theme instead of a story. It moved too easily. It was like: Part 1, introduce characters, start dating Rogerson, Part 2: Rogerson starts being abusive, Part 3: Rehab, get things back in line, live happily ever after. No. Life isn't that easy.

On the plus side, it gives the reader something to think about. What if I loved someone who claimed to love me back, who then started hitting me? Would I back out? Would I tell someone? Would I brush it off? It seems obvious; I'd leave. But what if I really did love him? I don't know. The entire cycle of this type of relationship at least seemed well explained, but that was it.

Overall, I wouldn't recommend it, but there is value in it. I suppose my feelings on it fall into the 'meh' area.

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