Odea Donahue has been able to travel through people’s dreams since she was six years old. Her mother taught her the three rules of walking: Never interfere. Never be seen. Never walk the same person’s dream more than once. Dea has never broken the rules. Then a mysterious new boy, Connor, comes to town. For the first time in her life, Dea feels normal. But both Dea and Connor have secrets, and as she is increasingly drawn to Connor’s dreams—and nightmares—the boundary between worlds begins to deteriorate, putting everyone she loves in danger.
Robert L. Anderson is probably one of my favorite debut authors. Dreamland, his first novel, is super twisted, super visual, and a super awesome read. The premise is truly unique. It touches on the surreal like Inception (LOVE the movie, btw), but has a very different flair. Without tossing any spoilers out there, let me just say that Dea NEEDS to walk dreams. It’s imperative to her survival. And that, my friends, is where it gets super trippy and awesome.
A good bit of Dreamland takes place in, well, Dreamland, so it could very easily get too clouded and muddled for reading. Anderson does a great job of providing enough detail for the reader to paint the scenery without becoming a convoluted mess. Books like this are great for visual people, in my opinion. I, for one, have crazy surreal dreams. The dreamscapes of Dreamland are pretty much spot on to anything I would dream, and Anderson brings it to us in such a smooth manner that it all feels…normal. A lot of this is due to Dea, our heroine. She is a reliable and consistent narrator who teaches us the rules through her interactions with dreams.
Dea walks dreams all the time. She knows the rules. She lives by the rules. She’s a good kid. But Dea is also a seventeen year-old girl who’s tempted by the dreams of an incredibly nice and good-looking new boy in town. What sensible girl wouldn’t take a chance on the rules to get an extra peek inside the head of the hot boy next door? But it’s not just that which makes Dea enjoyable to read. First, she is very much a teen girl. The voice is spot on and Anderson (who is NOT a teen nor a girl) does a fantastic job bringing her to life. Dea also loves her mom, adores her one-and-only friend, and is desperate to find “normal.” She’s tired of moving around. She WANTS roots somewhere. Knowing the truth about her father wouldn’t hurt either.
Gollum, Dea’s neighbor and only friend in Small Town Indiana, is super fun as well. She’s from a poor farming family and the only girl. Gollum is the best kind of country, and she has a great head and heart. She doesn’t have a huge role, but every time Gollum came into the scene, I loved it.
Cute new boy in town, Connor, was fun to read, but not as fun as the girls. He just didn’t feel as genuine to me. I found this odd since the author is male and the male lead didn’t feel as believable as the females. For the most part, I liked Connor’s character. He is the straight definition of a guy trying to find “normal” after a very not normal childhood. His struggles feel real and I felt the connection with his desire to overcome his personal obstacles. The relationship between Dea and Connor left me wanting a bit more. Some of it just felt too—convenient. That’s the best word I have for it.
Other than that, Dreamland is a solid page-turner. I loved the scenes taking place in dreams and the visual quality to them. The end wrapped up a little on the “boo” side for me, but it also leaves the door wide open for a sequel. And I’m totally okay with a sequel. Just sayin’. The characters are well-grounded and fun to read, Dea is a hero any girl of any age can relate to, and the wicked, mind-trippy scenes in Dreamland will leave you breathless from their creep factor and their beauty.