Saturday, October 7, 2017

Review - Dream Me

Dream Me
by Kathryn Berla
Date: 2017
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 270
Format: e-book

Every night Babe dreams of a boy she’s never met before named Zat. But Zat is no ordinary daydream. He’s actually a human from the distant future, who has travelled back in time to be with Babe in the only way that he can be—in her dreams. But the dreams leave Babe more and more tired and pained each morning. Zat is determined to help her, even if it means never sharing dreams with her again.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

WARNING: This review will contain spoilers. If you want to read a version with the spoilers hidden, head on over to Goodreads and read it there.

I feel insulted. After 270 pages of implausibility sprinkled with what I can only describe as mansplaining, I'm miffed. No, I'm downright annoyed.

If this book had lived up to its synopsis, that would be one thing. But it didn't. It failed. Boy, did it fail! Where do I even begin?

To begin with, the premise of a far-future human coming back to inhabit the dreams of a present-day teenage girl is a bit far-fetched. If you're going to try to pull that off, you need to do more than... well, this. Zat is not just "a human from the distant future". In fact, I wouldn't even call him a human at all. He's some sort of reptilian creature who's evolved from humans. That would take a long time, right? Right. Zat comes from five billion years in the future. The Earth is devoid of trees (it's never explained how anything lives without oxygen), the "humans" sleep all day so they don't use up too many resources, and... well, I can't really explain much more about that future because the world-building was stupendously weak. Aside from the fact that their houses are like cubes and there are vipers lurking in the dark, we don't know much about this future world. Except that it's dying because the sun is expanding. People are in a scramble to get off the planet. You'd think that with, you know, five billion years of warning, they wouldn't have left everything to the last minute.

But that's not the only problem with Zat and his part of the story. Instead of getting off the planet with the rest of his family, he decides to go back in time. Time-travel technology was supposedly invented before space travel technology (okay...) and was then abandoned in favour of the latter. One guy tried to travel back in time, and because the results were ambiguous, they abandoned the whole idea. And then Zat decides to try it. He basically stalks Babe for a while before he takes up residence in her dreams. With his body in the future dead, the only way he can exist is in her dream state. She gets headaches when she dreams of him, which of course he feels guilty about (insert suitable YA angst here... even though this is a guy who has access to five billion years of written history, so surely he would've known something like this could happen). Oh, yeah. About that knowledge thing. It's never explained, either. At one point he says that all of humanity's knowledge is "implanted" into them. Babe assumes it's a chip. But it's never explained. How you'd get five billion years' worth of history on an implantable chip is beyond me, but that's what the author decided to go with. Curiously, Zat only seems to read 19th- and 20th-century classics. Wordsworth. Hemingway. I guess we've peaked.

This book might have worked as a short story. All the nonsense about tennis and the pervert at the country club could've been cut. It didn't add anything to the plot. In fact, it took away from the main plot. When I read a book with sci-fi or fantasy elements like this, I don't want to spend the majority of the book hobbling through descriptions of the weather or what the characters are eating.

Then there are the characters. The book begins with Zat, so you'd assume he's a main character. Despite being a point-of-view character, he's not really a main character at all. The main character is Babe, whose parents named her after some female golfer, perhaps not realizing that naming your child after a term of endearment is infantilizing. When Babe, a modern-day teenager, mentioned a peer named Marvin, I threw up my hands in despair. How hard is it to look up popular baby names for the year 2000? I can pretty much guarantee that "Marvin" won't be on any of those lists.

Babe is one of the most insufferable characters I've read in a while. She's got this reverse snobbery thing going on, where she looks down at people who have more money or status and automatically assumes they're bad people. It was so blatant that I was hoping it would be addressed at some point. She continually judged a girl named Mattie Lynn, pegging her as a queen bee (and possibly a mean girl), when there was nothing to really give that impression. All I got out of Mattie Lynn was an overachiever who perhaps didn't recognize her privilege, but who wasn't necessarily cruel. Babe comes across as someone who whines and views herself as misunderstood... and yet she's constantly making the same snap judgments about others that she presumably doesn't want made about her. In short, she's kind of a hypocrite.

The writing in this book was just terrible. The grammar was off. The dialogue punctuation was wrong more than half the time. The tenses were weird. The book has three different points of view: Zat, Babe, and Babe's blog. Babe's blog is weird in that it's written in the present tense, while her "live" sections are written in the past tense. One of the commenters on her blog pointed this out, and she just dismissed it. (I almost got the feeling that an editor pointed this out to the author and, being too lazy to change it, she just tried to make it appear like a stylistic choice.) The prose veered into shades of purple at times, leading to some unintentionally funny descriptions of gelatinous skin and "creamy brown" hair. And, like I mentioned before, there was this condescending tone that crept in at times. Certain things that didn't need to be explained were mansplained to death. Babe herself takes things very literally at times, leading to some stupidity. (She ponders the meaning of terms like "fire ant", "sleepy town", and "vixen", wondering about miniature fire-breathing dragons, a town where everyone sleeps a lot, and an actual fox, respectively. Did I mention that this girl with her stunning vocabulary wants to be a writer?) And then there are things that are not explained at all, that the author assumes all readers will understand, like tennis terms.

Ultimately, though, this was just unsatisfying. The ending is pat and unexplained. Where did the real Zat come from? Did he take over someone's body? Did his soul/energy become solid? Did Earl have a magic camera that took his photo and shot his body out like an instant Polaroid? We never find out the identities of the mysterious blog commenters like Sweetness (they were written to sound relevant to the story... but I guess they weren't). Babe comes across as a dull, stupid girl, and I couldn't care about her or her "problems" (Perry? Why should I care about this non-boyfriend?) at all.

I expect this sort of thing from self-published books, but this wasn't. I guess I need to be careful about small indie presses, too. All around, a disappointment and a waste of time. Now I know why so many people on Goodreads DNFed this one!

For a book with a somewhat similar premise but a far better execution, try Corinne Duyvis's Otherbound instead. (Keep in mind that I only gave that book 2 stars; the fact that I'm recommending a 2-star book at all should tell you how bad I thought Dream Me was.)

Quotable moment:

It's that special peaceful time just before sunset, when day and night reach equilibrium and the world stops to exhale. I'm never up early enough to know if the world inhales before sunrise.

Premise: 2/5
Plot: 0/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 1/5
Writing: 1/5
Editing: 0/5
Originality: 1/5
Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 0.88 out of 5 ladybugs

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