Archive for March, 2019

20
Mar
19

“The things that could have happened but did not are just as crucial to a life as all the things that do.” CBR11 Review 13.

UnknownThis is the second book by Karen Thompson Walker (the first being The Age of Miracles), whereupon finishing the book, I was unsure how I felt and needed to sit with the story for a while. With TAOM, there was a lot to like — interesting premise, selfish tween narrator, fascinating vignettes of the day to day life that we take advantage of — but I always felt that maybe the book was a bit too much like “literary fiction” to be believed as the words and thoughts of a middle schooler.

The Dreamers has much the same feeling. I liked the plot and the vignettes, but something about it was simply too literary for me to give it a five star rating.

In a small, remote California college town, students in a dorm start falling asleep, one by one, and they do not wake up. Kids are quarantined, classes are cancelled, parents are called, but the town and the school do not do a tremendous job of making sure that whatever this sleeping virus might be, that it won’t be spread to the general public.

Soon, the bulk of the town is asleep, connected to IVs and heart monitors under large tents on the college grounds. Kids are left to fend for themselves, there are riots at the grocery store, and the National Guard is brought it to keep the peace. But we don’t know what the virus is, why it came to this small town, or what happens to the ill while they are asleep, other than the fact that they are dreaming.

As the victims start to wake up, they have a hard time getting back to their regular lives. Some claim that they dreamt of the past. Some claim they had detailed dreams of the future. A patient with Alzheimer’s had a sudden burst of clarity. A young woman refused to accept that the son she dreamed of did not actually exist, and mourned for him upon waking up. The virus affected them all differently, but none of them will ever forget the dreams. Their vivid dreams and their realities will battle constantly in their minds for the rest of their lives.

The story was fascinating. I liked the idea of all of these different narrators from different walks of life — a professor, a new father, a middle schooler, a quiet college freshman — and the unique ways that the virus changed their lives and how they dealt with it.

What didn’t quite work for me was the writing style. If this were a Stephen King book, the descriptions of the town and all of its inhabitants would seem realistic to me. He thrives with small towns and the strange people who live in them, and seems to be able to give each character a unique voice. My problem here was that all of the characters seemed to share one voice. Other than by reading about their actions and seeing their names, it was hard to tell one character from another. Again, its just that “literary fiction” feeling that I can’t get past.

My quibble is a small one. I still really enjoyed this book and didn’t want to put it down. And I’ll keep reading whatever Karen Thompson Walker writes about. I just wish it had a slightly looser feel to it.

 

04
Mar
19

“Rumors are born with legs that can run a mile in less than a minute. Rumors eat up dreams without condiments. Rumors do not have expiration dates. Rumors can be deadly. Rumors can get you killed.” CBR11 Review 12.

UnknownJeez. And I thought Sadie was a dark and bleak YA offering. In Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson, dark and bleak would look pretty good.

This book is tough to get through. But not because of the writing, which was beautiful at times. Its tough because its is painfully realistic, and real life doesn’t always have a happy ending.

After a summer away visiting her grandparents, Claudia comes back to school, excited to see her best (and really, only) friend, Monday. But Monday doesn’t show up. Claudia’s parents and teachers tell her not to worry, they’re sure Monday will eventually come to school.

But she doesn’t. And it doesn’t seem like anyone but Claudia seems all that bothered by it.

Claudia does everything she can think of to find her friend. She calls, but the number is out of service. She drops by, but Monday’s mother says she is visiting her aunt. She tracks down Monday’s older sister, who tells her that Monday is living with their dad. Something’s wrong, but Claudia can’t figure out what.

Meanwhile, Claudia has to navigate through middle school without her best friend covering for her learning disability for her anymore. She’s a nervous wreck that the other kids — who already make fun of her for something that happened last year with Monday — will go crazy when they find out she’s dyslexic. She fears the rumor mill and doesn’t think she can face it without Monday.

Claudia has a great support system. Her parents love her very much. She’s a very talented dancer, and makes a few new friends at her dance group. And she gets closer to Michael, a boy from church, who tries to help her figure out where her friend could be.

The timeline jumps around a lot. Chapters are titled “Before” or “After”, and even “Before the Before.” We get a sense of what Claudia’s life was like with Monday in it, and what things are like without Monday. As the timeline gets more and more confusing, the reader can feel that something big is coming. And it does.

I don’t want to get into spoilers here, but the last 30 pages of this book took my breath away. When ElCicco reviewed this a few weeks ago, I told her that the end of this book was like a “gut punch”. I’m still feeling the frustrating reality of that punch, weeks later. This book got under my skin and lived there, and I know I’ll think of it for years to come.

 




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