Top Social

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen ⇉ The Scariest Part? I Don't Know When I Woke Up in Dreamland.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sarah Dessen

Genre: YA Contemporary
Paperback: 250 Pages
Publication: May 11, 2004

Original Pub: Sept. 1, 2000
by Speak

Wake up, Caitlin

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 Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else--her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life.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?


"But I couldn't tell her. I couldn't tell anyone. As long as I didn't say it aloud, it wasn't real."

As Caitlin loses touch with reality, I found myself subconsciously drawn into her Dreamland. By the last hundred pages, I couldn't put this novel down.

Caitlin's story is heartbreaking. She can be any of us. Someone who feels like she has lost everything and just wants to become invisible (and yet yearns to be visible). With everyone's attention on Caitlin in the wrong way, she finds herself drawn to Rogerson because he doesn't know her story and because he offers her a new world, one that distinguishes her from her sister. Through him, she finds the courage to ditch the life she never wanted for herself, but enamored as she is, she does it in all the wrong ways and mires herself deeper and deeper in a nightmarish Dreamland.

The writing is sparse with the details and feels disconnected. There's little sense of time except through the big events (like Christmas Eve and the Fool's Party). It works for this novel. Given the issues Caitlin is working through, it'd be hard to care about everything that's going on around her. Her focus is on the few things that make her feel alive. Everything else is worth a mention only when something interrupts her Dreamland. And yet, through it all, Dessen weaves symbolism (like the poem in English class) and haunting phrases (like the quote above). The last paragraph of the Rogerson section was especially bone-chilling and revealing of Caitlin's situation.

I appreciate how Dessen develops Caitlin's character. We can understand why Caitlin feels like she needs Rogerson even though logic tells her again and again that she needs help getting out. Love isn't the only thing keeping Caitlin in the relationship; she has other issues that keep her trapped there. I am especially in love with how Caitlin finds healing. Family and female friendship is important to me (and sadly neglected in many YA novels today). And given how it was a guy that hurt Caitlin, it doesn't make sense for her to find healing in another guy. It's a realistic, beautiful ending that doesn't package away all the hurt and fear but offers the start to the healing progress.

Real World Connection
I believe many of us can relate to Caitlin. Even if we never did any of the other things Caitlin has done, we may have been in a relationship that started with a smile and ended in tears. Generally, we don't get into a relationship expecting things to go bad; we want love (like Caitlin). However, the guy may have issues he hasn't dealt with (like Rogerson), he may come in with expectations of how you will act (like Rogerson), or he may not treat you with respect (like Rogerson). It's important to acknowledge the existence of physical and emotional abuse in relationship, but just because the guy doesn't hit you doesn't mean he's not abusing you in some way.

Something I believe all women should learn to do is to say no and to recognize the signs that a guy isn't treating you right (and probably won't). Another thing is for us to be a well-informed friend. We might be a Rina or a girl on the cheer squad—someone who was in contact with Caitlin. If we are, then we should learn the signs that our friend is in an unhealthy relationship; we should maintain open communication and be there to support her. If necessary, we should be prepared to report to the appropriate authorities, so our friend can receive the help she needs.

Mature Content

Given the nature of this book, the mature content is unavoidable, and Sarah Dessen handles it with a delicate touch. While there is quite a bit of content (listed in the table below and greater detail afterwards), she doesn't describe things in detail or in a pointed away. There's no glamor but also no shaming, just the understanding that hurt in other areas of our lives may draw us to other hurtful practices, and there's healing to be found when we are ready to accept it.

Read, Reconsider, or Relinquish? The verdict is: Read!

  • N/A
Similar Books
Mature Content
  • Language
  • Teenage smoking and drinking
  • Abusive relationship (including physical violence)
  • Birth control
  • Making out
  • Sex

Details of Mature Content
  • Language (casual cussing pervasive, but not in large quantities at a time; I counted no more than 2-3 per page)
  • Teenage smoking (cigarettes and pot) and drinking (at parties and otherwise)
  • Abusive relationship (Rogerson is described hitting the MC)
  • Birth control (the pill)
  • Making out (mentioned but not described in detail; the MC reveals afterwards the first time that her bra has been removed)
  • Sex (suggested, not shown)

Post Comment
Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting. We love hearing from readers! To receive notifications of replies to your comments, just click “Notify me” in the bottom right corner of the comment box to subscribe to the thread! :)