Dreamland - by Sarah Dessen

"made me think twice about people I know who've changed recently"

Everyone forgot my birthday as our kitchen became mission control, full of ringing phones, loud voices, and panic.” Sarah Dessen captures the emotion of a 16 year old girl, Caitlin, whose sister just ran away to be with her boyfriend.  Dreamland portrays the confusion, hurt, and emptiness of a lonely girl.  Dessen shows a normal teenage girl’s many efforts to fill the place in her heart for her sister.

Caitlin is a new cheerleader trying to fill her life and keep her parents happy.  Her amazing, genius sister whom she can’t keep up with has run off with her boyfriend and left Caitlin to pick up the slack.  The two girls have been close all their lives, sharing everything.  They have battle wounds from each other as well as encouragement and a sense of safety.  Having to find something new, she meets Rogerson.  He is an odd character but loving, sweet and protective.  At first he would be the guy of any girl’s dreams and gives Caitlin the happiness she’s been missing, but things change quickly. All the complications of being in a relationship as well as his different lifestyle adds to Caitlin’s original stress. Sarah Dessen shows how one teenage girl could react to the loads of stress as she floats through life as if in a painful dream.

While reading the book I went through many indecisive moods whether I liked it or not.  I have a tendency to be in the mood of the character.  Most of the time Caitlin is rather depressed which is not very interesting to a happy person but would connect with someone who is having a hard time. I could see many teenage girls reading this book and realizing there are ways to get out and get help.  When Caitlin’s life begins to smooth out (in many unexpected ways) a settled feeling allowed me to really enjoy the book.  Dreamland turned out to be an educational book in some ways.  It shows how to be understanding when someone is having problems like Caitlin had.  This book made me think twice about people I know who have changed recently and made me realize that anyone can help.

Having many girlfriends in high school allots too many unique stories.  Sarah Dessen had many girlfriends and might have dealt with a friend like Caitlin.  She has definitely tapped into teenage girls and learned to help them.  Dessen uses lots of nature metaphors and keeps the book flowing.  She makes the book easy to read with loads of emotion to keep the reader intrigued and involved.  Dessen fills the book with description that helps everyone feels like they are a part of Caitlin’s life.  Every face Rogerson makes is completely described along with all the photos that Caitlin takes.  It feels like you can see each picture and read the emotion behind each one.  Overall this book is a fun, easy read.  It’s very interesting with some emotional and funny parts.  Any teenage girl would love this book.

    - Sydney C.

"Caitlin sees Rogerson as door to try something new and get away from her problems."

Dreamland is a quirky, expressive novel written by the well-known author Sarah Dessen. The story opens with a teenage girl, Caitlin O’Koren, whose home is a living nightmare. Her older, perfect sister, Cass, has just run off in the middle of the night with her boyfriend, leaving Caitlin to deal with her parents’ exasperation and confusion. Her mother tries to fill the emptiness Cass has left by buying hundreds of creepy dolls to put around the house. On the other hand, Caitlin’s dad busies himself with important phone calls and is always working. Caitlin almost loses her mind, until she meets the mysterious, magnetic Rogerson Biscoe.

Rogerson is charming, makes Caitlin feel important, and helps her forget all of her troubles. Caitlin sees Rogerson as an open door to try something new and get away from her problems. Caitlin puts up with Rogerson’s drug problems and dealings because he is electric and she cannot get enough of him, but eventually her life changes in ways she didn't expect. Rogerson's bad temper and controlling personality become worse, but Caitlin is so consumed with him that she is more afraid of her life without Rogerson, than her life with him, even if he forces her into choices that make her uncomfortable.

Although Dessen is slow to progress the plot at the beginning of the novel, it is effective because it pulls readers into Caitlin’s life. They learn her struggles, thoughts, and feelings, which help readers understand why she is so attracted to Rogerson. We capture the self-destruction that drugs and abuse eventually lead Caitlin into. Dessen’s enthralling writing has the readers charmed by Rogerson, which makes the readers just as blindsighted by his shocking behavior as Caitlin is.

Dreamland is to raise awareness of the frequent emotional and physical abuse evident in many teenage relationships today. Most teens do not realize they are being emotionally abused because they figure it is their fault, just as Caitlin does. Caitlin believes Rogerson’s anger problems are triggered by her actions, and therefore are her fault. I think Dessen is trying to tell teenagers that no teenager is ever deserving or responsible for emotional or physical abuse

Personally, I loved every part of Dreamland. I loved the plot, characters, and conflict Dessen presents in her novel and I would definitely recommend it to all teenagers. Dessen’s use of entrancing word choice and description of events made me want to read it over and over. Dessen does a wonderful job of keeping the reader’s attention and pulling you into the life of Caitlin O’Koren. I ached for Caitlin when she was pulled into Rogerson's world, and yearned for her to tell someone what was happening to her when she would not. Dessen’s words made me want to jump in the book and help Caitlin through her struggles. Overall, Dreamland is an entrancing novel and I believe Dessen effectively uses her position as a well-known author to raise awareness of teenage abuse everywhere.

    - Tabitha B.