Book Review: Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Book: Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Published: Penguin, 2000
Genre: Young Adult
Buy It: Amazon

Summary (from Goodreads): Strange, sleepy Rogerson, with his long brown dreads and brilliant green eyes, had seemed to Caitlin to be an open door. With him she could be anybody, not just the second-rate shadow of her older sister, Cass. But now she is drowning in the vacuum Cass left behind when she turned her back on her family's expectations by running off with a boyfriend. Caitlin wanders in a dream land of drugs and a nightmare of Rogerson's sudden fists, lost in her search for herself.
Why do so many girls allow themselves to get into abusive relationships--and what keeps them there? In this riveting novel, Sarah Dessen searches for understanding and answers. Caught in a trap that is baited with love and need, Caitlin must frantically manage her every action to avoid being hit by the hands that once seemed so gentle. All around her are women who care--best friends, mother, sister, mentor--but shame keeps her from confiding in any of them, especially Cass, her brilliant older sister, whose own flight from home had seemed to point the way.
Dessen has here created a subtle and compelling work of literature that goes far beyond the teen problem novel in a story rich with symbolism, dark scenes of paralyzing dread, quirky and memorable characters, and gleams of humor. With the consummate skill and psychological depth that brought her praise for Keeping the Moon, she explores the search for self-identity, the warmth of feminine friendships, and the destructive ways our society sets up young women for love gone wrong.

My thoughts: I enjoy Sarah Dessen when I'm looking for something light and quick to read. I wasn't really familiar with this one and it just so happened that it was very similar to the last book I read, Speak. I think that I would have enjoyed this much more if I had not read two similar novels back to back.  Nonetheless, it still was a quick read for me and I didn't dislike it.
Caitlin has always lived in her older sister, Cass', shadow. Cass is secretly tired of her parents controlling her life and ends up running away with her boyfriend. While Caitlin and her family learn to deal with the temporary loss of Cass, Caitlin is also trying to figure out how to live her life apart from Cass. She begins dating Rogerson, the mysterious rich guy she met at a carwash. Things with Rogerson are great for awhile and get even better when Caitlin learns Rogerson's father beats him. This brings the couple much closer as she is able to help him deal with his abusive father. Things start to take a turn as Rogerson begins to get jealous and angry more often. Suddenly it seems he is no different from his father. To numb the pain, she starts smoking pot regularly and continues spending all of her time with Rogerson trying to keep him happy. Caitlin becomes almost dead inside from all the pain Rogerson has caused her but she still refuses to tell anyone what is going on. She is able to hide her cuts and bruises. The night of her parent's annual April Fools party, her world finally comes crashing down and her secret comes out.
I actually felt that Caitlin was much more likable than Melinda in Speak. She felt real to me. She had developed this connection and love with Rogerson and then suddenly a switch was flipped in him and her life was changed. Although she never seemed to think about leaving him, she recognized that what he was doing to her was wrong. It tore her apart to know that someone who loved her could hurt her so badly. I really hoped that her friend Corinna would figure out what was wrong and save her much earlier, but that didn't happen. The only good thing that came out of Caitlin and Rogerson's relationship was the the friendship she found in Corinna. Her other best friend, Rina (really? Corrina and Rina??) was a pretty awful friend too caught up in her own life to see there was something seriously wrong. I could not stand her. All along, Caitlin was missing someone she could confide in. She got too lost in her own head to save herself. She was trying to step out of Cass' shadow, which she managed to do but in the wrong way. Overall, this was a pretty decent book about abuse in relationships and what NOT to do. A little heavier than the other Sarah Dessen books that I've read, but it offers a good message about speaking up if you or someone you know if the victim of abuse.

My thoughts: 3 stars


  1. I loved this book! In fact, it's my favorite Dessen novel up to date. I had to read the book for library school and read it a few weeks after "Speak", but I still thought it was powerful. Great review!

  2. Nice review...don't think I've ever read Dessen but I've always wanted to!