Friday, February 3, 2012

Dreamland - Sarah Dessen

Summary: Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real.  Rogerson is different from anyone Caitlin has ever known.  He's magnetic.  He's compelling.  He's dangerous.  Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else -- her missing sister, her lackluster life.  But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?  (Summary from book - Image from www.sarahdessen.com )

My Review:  Caitlin lives in the shadow of her older sister, Cass, who was the perfect daughter, successful and popular, until she ran away to live with her boyfriend in the big city.  Caitlin feels betrayed and lost, and struggles to find herself in a world without her sister.  Then she meets Rogerson Briscoe and that world – all the pain, confusion, and loneliness – falls away. 

It sounds like a fairytale, right?  It’s not.  Rogerson is a drug dealing control freak, who becomes increasingly abusive over the course of their relationship.  Caitlin soon fades into a world of underage drinking, drugs, and physical abuse that shatters her already fragile self-esteem.   She feels likes she’s in a fog – a dreamland – but too weak to pull herself out of the nightmare.  Caitlin needs someone to save her, but her parents are too distracted to notice.   

As an adult, it didn’t take long for me to spot the red flags in their relationship – especially Rogerson’s controlling behavior and Caitlin’s unhealthy dependence on him.  I’m not sure how long it would take for younger readers to shake the stars out of their eyes, but for me the entire book felt like watching a train wreck in slow motion.  I was filled with a sense of horror and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it.  Every choice Caitlin made, every step she took down the wrong path had me screaming in my head:  STOP!  LEAVE!  TELL SOMEONE!  Unfortunately, leaving is never that easy.  SPOILER   For those who just need to know there is a happy ending, don’t worry.  Caitlin is finally able to escape from her relationship with Rogerson and, with the help of her family and friends, slowly begins to heal. END OF SPOILER

This book came with some brutal emotional transference – a side effect of my pregnant state, I suppose.   When Caitlin and Rogerson’s relationship became abusive, I was devastated and furious.  I felt trapped inside Caitlin’s relationship, seeing it first through her eyes and then from the outside as my daughters began to take her place.  I saw each of their sweet faces in the pages of this book and each bruise felt like a mark on their skin.  My desire to rescue Caitlin and beat Rogerson Briscoe to death with my bare hands made for a very difficult, very emotional read.

Unfortunately, the topic of abusive teen relationships is extraordinarily relevant to today’s teens.   At first, when I felt this book was glamorizing an unhealthy romantic relationship, I hated it.  I was ready to throw it across the room, give it 2 stars, and be done with it, but I’m glad I hung on because eventually a deeper message began emerge.   I know that there are kids out there who are feeling Caitlin’s pain – the desperation, loathing, confusion, despair, and self-loathing that comes from living in an abusive relationship – and it breaks my heart to think that anyone could feel the same way Caitlin did.  I’m not sure if this book is suitable for younger teens, but it might fit well into the hands of older teens who are likely to absorb the book’s message.  If you are planning to recommend this book to a younger reader, I suggest you read it and decide for yourself. 

My Rating: 3.25 Stars (up from 2, so that’s quite a comeback)

For the sensitive reader:   Frequent teenage drinking, drug use, and eventually physical abuse.  Also, there are a few instances of profanity and some vague references to sex.  

Sum it up:  A painful, but valuable, perspective on contemporary teen relationships, domestic violence, and a young woman trying to reclaim and rebuild her life.

1 comment:

MindySue said...

Mmmmmmm. No. Mostly because I'm afraid I would be doing your book report. I could be wrong about the motivation behind your request, but either way it's been a while since I've read the book and I don't think I could do Cass justice.

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