Review: Dreamland by Sarah Dessen


I did not see this book coming. To say this book made me uncomfortable is an understatement. Just as engrossing as all of Sarah Dessen’s other books, I did not want to put it down… but for very different reasons. Let me jump straight into it.


IMG_1907When Caitlin’s sister Cass runs away, the whole family is devastated. Caitlin floats along, lost, until she meets Rogerson Biscoe. He is electrifying, beautiful, and mysterious, and Caitlin cannot help but be pulled into his world. He is everything she has been looking for, and Caitlin starts to believe that she could find herself, finally, in Rogerson. Yet just as suddenly, Caitlin starts to realize that she is more lost than she ever thought she was. She is trapped and must find a way out, before she loses herself completely to the dreamland.

(Dessen, 2000)

My thoughts

It terrified me. I know craziness like this happens every day. So many people must tell themselves, it would never happen to me, I would never let it… until it does. This book is not for the faint of heart, so I will have to spoil it for a few of you and come out and say it – this book is about physical abuse. It also covers topics such as drugs and teen sex, so if you’re worried about sensitive topics, you might want to skip this one.

Many times, I had to put the book down and take a breath. It was not an easy read. But I was so compelled, I couldn’t stop reading. With every hit I felt myself cringe, bracing myself for the impact Caitlin must have felt. My heart broke for her, and I often found myself yelling in my head at the people around her – “CAN’T YOU SEE WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON?! ARE YOU ALL BLIND?!” I hated them for being so oblivious. And, more than anything, I hated Rogerson. I also hated Caitlin for her weakness as much as I pitied her.

Wake up, Caitlin

(Dessen, 2000, p. 167)

Indeed, wake up. It really made me second-guess myself. It is easy to judge, as the reader. But then I think about how much I love my fiancé. How would I react if I were Caitlin? To be honest, I don’t know, and that terrifies me. I would like to think I am stronger than that. But how do we really know, until it happens to us?

So once again, Sarah Dessen has taken my breath away. I can’t really say that in this instance, it is in a very good way, I am incredibly awed and disturbed at the same time. This story is unbelievably chilling; it doesn’t shy around discussing a topic that is in fact a reality to a lot of people in the world.

I understood those mermaids. I didn’t care if they sang to me. All I wanted was to block out all the human voices as they called my name again and again, pulling me upward into light, to drown.

 (Dessen, 2000, p. 168)

I can’t really say I related to this in any way, other than I know that feeling of drowning, feeling helpless as the world caves around you. But the reason Caitlin is feeling this way? No. And I am incredibly grateful I have never been made to feel in the same way. Yes, it is scary and heartbreaking. While targeting a YA audience, this is definitely one of the more adult books in the bunch. I am not going to bed with a light heart and easy thoughts tonight. I hated this book, but not in a “it sucks and was poorly written” sort of way. I hated it because it was too good, and it made me feel things that I did not like. Dessen is a master at what she does, that’s all I can say.

The Struggling Librarian

Dessen, S. (2000). Dreamland. New York: Speak.

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