Wake up, Caitlin
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 Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else–her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life. But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?– Goodreads
Dreamland is much like the former Dessen books I read: same town, a girl in the shadows trying to carve her own path in the world.
I always counted on Cass to lead me. She was out there somewhere, but she’d taken her own route, and for once I couldn’t follow. This time, she’d left me to find my own way. —paperback, pg 16
Caitlin lives in her popular sister’s, Cass, shadow. They are two years apart and while Cass always gets gold, Caitlin gets bronze and she is fine with that. What I love about Dessen is that she write realistic family dynamics. While the family isn’t remotely perfect they clearly love each other and the sister bond is strong. Then the worst happens, in the middle of the night Cass leaves. She is scheduled to go to Yale and decides that path is no longer right for her. While Caitlin’s parents are at a loss, Cass does call to tell them everything is okay. Because Cass leaves on Caitlin’s birthday, once again Caitlin where she is worried about disappearing.
Cass doesn’t understand why her sister left. She thought they were close, that they told each other everything, and that things were okay. But they weren’t, while her older sister was crumbling, Caitlin was continuing on living. When her sister leaves Caitlin wonders if this is her chance to shine. Caitlin starts to pick up things, including cheerleading (which her mother loves as it is something new to fill the hole that Cass left).
What’s fascinating to me is how often Dessen is classified as teen romance, or YA romance and Dreamland is so much more than that. Much like her recent Saint Anything this book is a much darker novel than summer! bright! happy! YA books. Rogerson is not a good guy, while he’s very cardboard in the fact we never really find out why he’s this asshole character (besides his father was very much that way), Caitlin falls for him. She adores the fact that she isn’t Cass’ sister. She’s her own person, and neither of her parents, or their next door neighbors (the parents BFFs), notice that Caitlin is being emotionally abused and that Caitlin is constantly stoned.
No. One. Notices. And by the time they do notice, Caitlin is too far deep to care.
The first part of this book moved very, very slow for me; however, the second half really picks up and makes Dreamland memorable for me. There was a moment I realized that I had a lump in my throat and I needed to make sure that Caitlin would be okay. I loved that Dessen made me wonder if everything would be okay. She wasn’t afraid to dig deep and then dig even deeper.
One of the things, actually I have two, I wish about Dessen’s novels was that 1) she diversified her books a little more (this is something she said she was working on) and that 2) is her treatment towards fat people. She spends a good portion of this book discussing how one of the cheerleaders gained 10-15 pounds this summer, and OH HOW IT SHOWS. This isn’t the first novel of her’s that I’ve had this issue with. From her newest Saint Anything to This Lullaby, which I just read, and it hurts my heart. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy what Dessen has done to the YA community, but these two things continue to be painful for me.