Author: Ronald Kidd
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: