Publisher: Square Fish/Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: September 13th, 2011
Riley’s finding that the afterlife can be a lonely place when all you do is focus on work. So she goes to the place where dreams happen, hoping to find a way to contact her sister, Ever. She meets the director, who tells her about the two ways to send dreams. As a Dream Jumper, a person can jump into a dreamer’s dream, share a message, and participate. As a Dreamweaver, an entire dream can be created in a studio and sent to the dreamer. But Dreamweaving was outlawed decades ago, and the studio was boarded up. Thinking it’s her only way to reach out to her sister, Riley goes in search of the old studio. There she finds a ghost boy, who’s been creating and sending nightmares to people for years. In order to stop him and reach out to Ever, Riley is going to have to confront and overcome her own fears.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)
If you have been following my blog long, you know that I really enjoy the Riley Bloom series (read my reviews of books one and two, Radiance and Shimmer, HERE). This is funny, because I really didn't care for the companion series, The Immortals, which is about Riley's sister Ever. It took me weeks to get into and finally finish the first book, Evermore. In contrast, I was immediately drawn into to Riley's world and finished Radiance in one day. I enjoyed Shimmer even more, and was anxiously awaiting the September 13th release of book #3, Dreamland. Imagine my surprise and delight when I opened my mailbox last week to find the audio ARC of Dreamland for review (Thank you, Esther Bochner and Macmillan Audio)!
I love the idea of audiobooks because I spend a lot of time in the car. I drive 70 miles each day just driving my oldest daughter back and forth to school, not to mention everything else. In Atlanta traffic, that equals a minimum of 2.5 hours a day in the car... That said, I'm not always thrilled with the audio version of a book. Sometimes I dislike the reader or the reader's accent/intonation, sometimes I just feel like I could have done a better job with my own voice inside my own head, and sometimes the reader just annoys me. Sometimes it's so perfect, it gives me chills (the audio of Beth Revis's Across the Universe is a perfect example). I wasn't sure what direction Dreamland would go considering the protagonist is a 12 year old girl and the reader is an adult; I was a bit apprehensive. Well, there was no need for my concern! The reader, Kathleen McInerney, was great. Although her voice didn't necessarily sound like that of a 12 year old, she nailed the intonation and the emotion behind the words. It was extremely believable and I had no trouble picturing Riley as the narrator of the story.
As for the story itself... It was very different from the first two books. Radiance and Shimmer both focused on Riley's vocation as a "Soulcatcher", and her developing relationship with her "Guide", Bodhi. Dreamland focused more on Riley's personal growth in the afterlife. She is given a "vacation" from her job after she went on a rogue soulcatching mission in Shimmer, and has to find something else to do with her time, which is difficult because she had been a workaholic of sorts. She's lonely and seeking companionship, and very much wants the advice that she would have sought from her older sister, Ever, had she still been alive. She finds a way to contact Ever through Dreamland, but as always with Riley, things don't go quite as planned... Through the course of the story, Riley learns many truths about the afterlife and who she is as a person; some of these truths are not pretty.
While I enjoyed the action that was such a large part of the first two books, I really found that I liked this book best even though it wasn't as action-packed and scary-ghost focused. We meet several fabulous new characters who I believe (hope!) we will see much more of in future books. We also find out a great deal more about Here & Now. Riley grows as a person in each book, but she becomes much more mature in this book. She finds out that some of the things she was told early on were not entirely true and that she has a great deal more power than she originally thought she had. Emotionally, 12 year old Riley ages a lot! As with the other two books, Alyson Noel conveys a subtle message; a lesson that most tween readers would not even notice they are learning, and that is one of the truly great things about this book.
As with the other two books, it is a quick read. If you are listening to the audio, it clocks in at just 5 hours; if you're reading the book, it is a mere 192 pages. Great for anyone; ideal for the reluctant reader.
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Grade Level Recommendation: As with the first two books, I would put this solidly in the "Middle Grade+" category. Fans of The Immortals will enjoy it because it's Ever's sister and Ever makes more than one appearance, but it may be a bit innocent for their taste. Completely appropriate for advanced reading 3rd graders+ (ages 8+).