Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak; September 1, 2000
Paperback, 250 pages
Borrowed from library

Love can be a very dangerous thing.

After her sister left, Caitlin felt lost.

Then she met Rogerson.

When she's with him, nothing seems real.

But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?

- Description from

I'm taking deep breaths currently, trying to get my thoughts straight. This is probably going to be the hardest review to write thus far. Dreamland is about an abusive relationship and is as dark as I've seen Sarah ever get. And I appreciate that, I really do. She writes about relationships, and well, an abusive relationship is incredibly common so it makes sense why she would write a book about it. The book should have been a breath of fresh air - I constantly wish for Sarah to try something a bit different - but it just didn't click with me. 

Perhaps it's just me, unable to jump over the "different" hurdle. Perhaps it was too far a leap that Sarah took for me to enjoy it as much as some people did. But like I said, I do appreciate it and you know what? I did think the relationship was written very realistically. I did. But I just didn't feel anything towards the characters. I hated Caitlin, and not just because she stayed in a toxic relationship (more on that later). I feel stupid and insensitive for saying this, but she was just so thick. Here she was complaining about her life, about how she had a "withdrawn mother" and a vanished sister, when in reality, her life was amazing. She had a close, supportive friend and an amazing family. And I understand how hard it must be to lose your sister and have you mother and father all shackled up and depressed, but does she really have to go out of her way and do everything Cass did not do to prove a point? To get attention? Honestly, I loathe characters in books who change themselves because they feel they need to get out of somebody's spotlight. And I guess part of the reason I'm upset is because of Caitlin and her relationship with Rogerson.

I'll apologize beforehand because I do see how some of what I say may be offending or insensitive. I'm just trying to sort my thoughts. Firstly, I understand how hard it is to get out of an abusive relationship. I really do. My problem was that it never appeared to me that Caitlin was in love with Rogerson in the first place. She was attracted to how different his life was from hers. She was excited to reinvent herself. That is not love and knowing that and seeing her waste away towards the end was so frustrating as a reader. I just wanted to knock some sense into her. I mean, there was nothing in that relationship once the abuse started that could ever make her want to stay. Except for maybe sex, but she knows that it all starts again and continues on and on and on. It's just, there was no redeeming factor for Rogerson that would make sense as to why she stayed. 

Another thing that bugged me was the fact that Caitlin thought that Rogerson was the only one there for her at that time. No, Caitlin. He wasn't. Open your eyes, you had Rina, your mom, Boo, and Stewart. Your dad.  They were all there for you, all you needed to do was to talk. I think this whole "pity me" and you know, just being very selfish and unappreciative was what gave me the hardest time in liking Caitlin. And of course, general frustration surrounding her relationship with Rogerson.

What I did like about this book, the one thing that didn't make me want to pull my hair out, was Matthew, Boo, Stewart, and Mingus (the dog.) I wish the book had been about them. I probably would have enjoyed that way more. 

Now see, it wasn't that I have trouble with abusive relationships. I've read a myriad of books about very dark, very real situations. It was just Caitlin that really made the book a flop for me. She was really annoying for me to read and this is not at all related to how I felt about why she wouldn't leave the relationship. But that made me a bit angry too. I do think that the abusive relationship was written well, it was realistic. And though Dreamland may not have been the book for me, there's no doubt that Sarah can write more than one type of relationship dynamic well.


  1. This is def a different kind of Sarah Dessen book. I read this aaages ago and remember feeling unsettled by it. I can't really remember details but I probably felt angry too. Wonderful review!

  2. I was shocked by how uninterested I was by this book (and annoyed). I've been waiting for a change in the books Sarah writes but after reading this, I'm not so sure I want her to change. I think I like my "happy ending" Sarah better. :) Thankfully, she has plenty of books like that for me to enjoy!