Review: Dreambender by Ronald Kidd

Author: Ronald Kidd
  Title: Dreambender 
Format/Source: eBook/NetGalley
Published: 1 March 2016
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Co.
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Middle-grade dystopia
Why I Read: Liked cover + description
Read If You’re: N/A
Links: GoodReads IndieBound Chapters | Amazon   I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Everyone in the City is assigned a job by the choosers–keeper, catcher, computer. Callie Crawford is a computer. She works with numbers: putting them together, taking them apart. Her work is important, but sometimes she wants more. Jeremy Finn is a dreambender. His job is to adjust people’s dreams. He and others like him quietly remove thoughts of music and art to keep the people in the City from becoming too focused on themselves and their own feelings rather than on the world. They need to keep the world safe from another Warming. But Jeremy thinks music is beautiful, and when he pops into a dream of Callie singing, he becomes fascinated with her. He begins to wonder if there is more to life than being safe. Defying his community and the role they have established for him, he sets off to find her in the real world. Together, they will challenge their world’s expectations. But how far will they go to achieve their own dreams?

Oh dear. This was not a good book. I wouldn’t have finished this book if it wasn’t an ARC. Thankfully now the remainder of my year’s reading should all be uphill from here!

 The story falls extremely short of the copy description, which seems full of potential. Unfortunately there is nothing more to the story. All aspects (world building, character development, prose, etc.) lack any substance. There’s no purpose, explanation or motivation to anything. It’s like something written by a 12 year old. (I say this recognizing features of my own 12 year old style.) I couldn’t believe I was actually reading a school teacher info dump that attempted to explain everything about dreambending while showing how gifted one of the MCs is. That whole weird, awkward  introduction to dreambending exemplifies many of the issues I have with this book. I had so many questions (not the good kind you want to have while reading). Why is Jeremy questioning, why are they starting dreambending suddenly, how did they get to this point, etc. Throughout the novel I was always asking ‘What, why, what, why is this happening?’ 

 There’s nothing really holding the narrative together. I felt there were a lot of random ‘WTF why is that happening now’ moments. The story feels very disjointed, with nothing really happening. The conclusion is especially eye rolling, with the ‘conflict’ fizzling away and everybody becoming friends with little convincing.

 The prose and dialogue is very blah and basic, predictable in a way. For example: ““Try it,” he said. “It’s good.” I eyed it and decided it probably was, if you were a beaver. I didn’t want to be rude, though, so I nibbled the edge of it. Amazingly, he was right.” Amazingly! -.-

 The characters all clearly demonstrate the concept of ‘one dimensional’. Protagonists Callie and Jeremy are ‘different’ and ‘special’, questioning the world around them with absolutely no reason for doing so. Whenever one made a ‘wise’ comment, I rolled my eyes and thought “Puh-lease, where would you get that from?” Nothing differentiates them from cardboard characters. The other characters, such as Callie’s ‘city friends’ and the kids living in Between, also read as caricatures constructed solely to drive the thin plot.  Finally, the foundation of the dystopia make no sense. Music and personal feelings caused ‘the Warming’ because people were too focused on themselves? This seems to me a silly shallow argument, with no basis in reality, being the opposite of what I’ve experienced – such people are generally more in tune with nature and their environment. It’s the ones with no interest in art and only interest in profits that you might say are driving ‘the Warming’. Everyone (aside from our ‘special’ characters) are scared of music and art for no substantial reason.  The Bottom Line: There’s nothing here worth your time. Sounds like Kidd’s Night on Fire is a book you should check out instead. Further Reading:

On Hiatus (Busy Travelling Middle-Earth)

I’m travelling around New Zealand and Australia until the end of May. (I left on the first – by the time you read this I’ll be heading to NZ from Sydney.) I’m not sure how much reading I’ll get done, and I can’t guarantee I’ll have Internet access, so for the next few months I’m going on hiatus. I’ll primarily be WWOOFing in New Zealand for three months, then visiting my best friend in Australia for the last month. Probably 70% of the reason I’m going to NZ is because of The Lord of the Rings. Some of the filming locations I plan to visit include Mt. Sunday (where they built Edoras), Matamata (Hobbiton), Wellington (WETA Cave) and various sites around Queenstown (Lothlorien, Isengard, Ithilien, etc.). I won’t be bungee jumping, but since NZ is the home of extreme sports I plan to give paragliding a go. I’ll be sure to share some pictures of Middle-Earth when I return. See you again when the weather’s a bit warmer~

Brief Thoughts: The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

  • The publisher’s description misleads, making no mention of Rachel’s pregnancy or brother, disregarding the family dynamics that make up the bulk of the plot. (The description does mention a mother, but she is removed from the story early on.) This tales is less about wolves and more about family. I wanted to read the story described on the back, but it’s not really the story you’ll find here. If you’re looking for a book about family relationships and repairing mends, though, you might enjoy this one. 
  • The ‘wolf border’ is, I think, just a subplot – one which Rachel actually has little to do with. Obviously, the wolf project affects her daily life, but the plot that winds through the story is little impacted by her. 
  • Rachel is very self-absorbed (which isn’t quite the right word, but it’s close enough). She doesn’t ever really get to know others (the Penningtons, Michael, Huib, barely even Lawrence) and makes assumptions about their behaviour or situations based on very little. The other characters consequently seem to have very little depth, even though one can imagine to be far more interesting people than Rachel encounters.
  • I hope I’m not disparaging Rachel too much. I found her relatable, if a little dull in her moments of inaction. 
    • I appreciated her character growth, which especially shows in her relationship with Lawrence.
  • The story proceeds very slowly with little action. The wolf plot picks up in the last 75 pages or so. I found myself tensing up when the story finally reached the point of something happening. I was invested by then.
  • This book doesn’t use quotation marks. I know that puts some people off… I like the dreamy distance (or closeness?) atmosphere that a lack of punctuation seems to give me. I also liked Hall’s prose, which created a great visual for the estate and the English countryside.
  • These next points contain SPOILERS re: the conclusion .
    • .
    • ..
    • I felt extremely pissed at Thomas, just as Rachel does – not because he necessarily did a bad thing, but because he went about it so sneakily and high-and-mightily. I couldn’t believe that was actually his endgame. There’s a good example of an eccentric person.
    • The reader doesn’t receive any closure with Rachel’s decision to tell Kyle about their son. I was frustrated by that, even though I felt it was going to be that kind of book, that ends just before you find out what happens. But, what’s the point of having Rachel occasionally hem and haw about telling Kyle (it’s really just a few moments where she thinks about it), and then finish with her heading to America to tell him…while not totally resolving that thread? I dunno, I suppose the point is more than Rachel made the decision than the outcome of that decision. But I like my plot threads to be neatly finished in these kind of stories.