Monday, April 28, 2014

Review - Dream Boy

Dream Boy
by Mary Crockett & Madelyn Rosenberg
Date: 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 336
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class.

One of friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. While Annabelle doesn’t know what to think, she’s willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, if dreams can come true, so can nightmares.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is the first ARC I've read in quite a while.  While I've come to rely on reviews when I'm trying to decide whether or not to read something, the synopsis of this book made me want to take a chance and give this one a try.  While I wasn't blown away by the book, I do think it has merit and will appeal to other readers.

First, the good.  There is actually a pretty imaginative premise to the story.  What if the people you dreamed about at night suddenly existed in your waking life?  I can't say that I've encountered this idea in any of the YA paranormal fiction that I've read.  So I will give the authors points for originality.

I also thought the character development was pretty good.  Annabelle is a particularly appealing heroine because she has a personality.  Yes, she can be mopey and self-deprecating at times, but she is a teenager; at least this sort of behaviour didn't define her completely.  I found her especially endearing in the first half of the book, when more attention was being paid to character development.  Take, for example, this passage, when she's explaining what she did when she had a crush on a guy who worked at the library:

I kept checking out As I Lay Dying in hopes he would talk to me, which of course he never did.  At least he worked at the library instead of a bookstore, so there was no financial investment, just time and brain cells and, since it was Faulkner, suffering.

If you've tried to read that book, you'll get it.  I almost laughed out loud.

The authors also appeared to make up lots of stuff (rather than use real brand names, place names, band names, etc.).  I wasn't sure if I liked this at first, but some of it ended up being pretty amusing:

Will steered us down toward River Road and I scanned through the lists on his iPod.  Nefarious Rodents, Meltdown, Lamb of the Apocalypse.

"Geez," I said.  "Do you get this for the music or the band names?  Burning Fur?  Really?"

I also liked the fact that this was a stand-alone novel.  There are no cliffhangers and very little unfinished business.  I've read a few books lately with ambiguous endings, so this was pleasantly refreshing.

Now for the negatives.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few.  One of the first things I noticed was that the tenses are a mess.  Annabelle narrates in the first person, and usually in the past tense... unless she's telling us something, at which point she often lapses into the present tense.  But it's not always consistent.  So you end up getting narration like this passage that somehow manages to switch tenses multiple times:

I knew it had been four years since my dad had left and these things happen and blah blah blah.  But it still didn't seem right that he was marrying someone else.  My mom hasn't even gone out on a date.

As a reader, I find this jarring.  When I settle in to read a book, one of the first things I take note of is the tense it's written in.  I get into a rhythm when I know what verb tenses to expect.  If those tenses change, there had better be a good reason: a flashback, a character relating a story, a framing device of some sort, etc.  Annabelle's dreams are related in the present tense, which makes sense.  But even then, there are weird lapses into the past tense that don't seem to belong:

I look down at my T-shirt, and find that it had been replaced by my homecoming dress.

When the tenses change for no reason, it comes across as sloppy.  This part of the book could definitely use some more editing to keep things consistent.

There are also many, many typos (which I'm going to chalk up to this being an ARC; hopefully they'll get weeded out before the final publication) and a number of said-bookisms, including my biggest pet peeve: the physically impossible ones:

"I needed some new ones before our trip to Black Beak," Serena clicked her toes together.

By the time I reached the halfway point, the typos (mostly of the punctuation variety) were really starting to get bad and the comma splices (like the one above... because that's basically what that is; it's certainly not a dialogue tag!) were growing in frequency.  While I understand that more editing may be done before this book is finally published, I don't think I've ever read an ARC that was quite this rough (at least as far as proofreading goes).

The plot -- while imaginative and original -- also requires the reader to suspend their disbelief... and not just about dream characters becoming reality.  We're also made to believe that ordinary people, once they learn about what's going on, will just accept it with very little questioning.  There were times in the book where long explanations would have been cumbersome, but the nearly blind acceptance of things was just a little too convenient to be believed.

I think, though, that my biggest disappointment turned out to be Annabelle herself.  Yes, I know I said I liked her.  But when it comes right down to it, she was really, really oblivious to two things that I thought were painfully obvious.  It makes me wonder whether the foreshadowing was just too strong, or whether I've just read too many of these types of books and I'm getting wise to the plot twists.  In any case, it did somewhat diminish my enjoyment of the story because I knew what was coming for so long.

If the editing issues are fixed, this could be a fairly strong addition to the YA paranormal genre... though perhaps for readers on the younger end of that age group.  Older readers and/or people who have read a lot in this vein are probably more likely to see the twists coming.  But it's a great premise and, overall, it was done passably well.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing a digital ARC.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 1/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3 out of 5


  1. Sometimes I wonder just how authors decide to strike that balance of letting us know or giving us hints, yadda yadda foreshadowing to how oblivious the character is. For me I prefer to figure things out with the character as opposed to WAY ahead of them. Lovely review and cover art is great.

    1. Thanks! Yes, I forgot to talk about the cover art in my review. The tree is featured in the story, so that was kind of cool. But when I see covers like this, I often wonder if they'll be switched out for a "girl-in-a-pretty-dress" cover at some point...