My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book 1 in the Dream Catcher series
This book is based around the idea that main character Janie accidentally falls in and out of people's dreams whenever she is close by someone sleeping. This is a huge problem for her when other students fall asleep at school or snooze on the bus, or when the residents at the care home for the elderly where she works suffer with particularly bad nightmares. While she is witnessing a dream her body appears to be having a seizure, and she can suddenly find herself blind and unable to move. Nobody knows what she can do, and Janie struggles to keep it that way. She has seen it all- the falling dreams, the standing-in-class-naked dreams, people's secret desires and fears.
Each chapter starts off with a date and time of day, and as the story also keeps jumping backward and forward in time, I had to keep checking back to check the dates to see at what stage in Janie's life I was reading about. The first couple of chapters are filled with falling in and out of different dreams, which at first felt a little confusing and repetitive. Yet despite this, once this story got going I really enjoyed this.
The writing is very stilted, almost like reading a screenplay. For example:
"August 30, 2004
It is the first day of school. Janie and Carrie are juniors. They wait for the bus on the corner of their street. A handful of other high school kids stand with them. Some are anxious. Some are terribly short. Janie and Carrie ignore the freshmen. The bus is late. Luckily for Cabel Strumheller, the bus is later than he is. "
This detached style of writing actually suits the story though, because Janie herself is very detached from everything and everyone, putting up with an alcoholic mother that doesn't notice if Janie is there or not, and not having any real friends. She is very isolated. Her only real goal is to just keep going, avoid being noticed, and to work every spare minute she can so that she can get into college. Once I got used to this different writing style, and the actual events of the story started to take off I started to get really into it, and to really root for Janie.
The main character Janie is so strong-willed and does not let anything get to her. She is determined to just get through the problems in her life without being thought of as a freak. Janie's friend Carrie is too wrapped up in her own life to think that Janie might be suffering. Then there is Cabel, who is sweet, but doesn't really know what to make of Janie at first. Their relationship is slow to build and all their secrets come out gradually. It turns out that Cabel doesn't have a great home life either, and they seem to understand each other and support each other without really doing anything. Their frustrations with each other build up in tension and despite the third person narrative were actually really sexy! My favourite part of the book was near the beginning when Cabel notices Janie walking home late at night without her shoes. He offers to give her a ride home on his skateboard to save her feet. Both are them are really awkward and neither of them say anything or mention the incident again for months afterward, but I think it sets the tone as to the kind of thoughtful guy Cabel is.
Overall, this is a short read (I read it easily in less than 24 hours), that is very different, with an unusual premise, and an introverted but ultimately likeable main character who grows in confidence and attitude through the course of the book. Despite thinking of herself as a freak, and unlovable, Janie does find a connection in the mysterious Cabel- who it turns out is hiding some secrets of his own. I want to read the next book now, to find out what will happen to them next!
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