Friday, February 12, 2010

Dreamland: Sarah Dessen


Rogerson Biscoe, with his green eyes and dark curly hair, is absolutely seductive. Before long, 16-year-old Caitlin finds herself under his spell. And when he starts to abuse her, she finds she's in too deep to get herself out.


Though this book starts out somewhat slow, once it gains momentum it becomes intense. The defining thing that sticks out in my mind is the cycle of abuse. Early in her relationship with Rogerson, Caitlin witnesses his father smack him hard across the face. When he started turning his hand on her, it really wasn't all that surprising. That's the way he knows to express his frustration but watching the abuse kick up in intensity was gut wrenching.

Caitlin began to function her entire life around Rogerson, fighting to keep him in her life, keep their abusive secret, and keep him from laying another hand on her. Given her age as a teenager, even though her actions were incredibly stupid, I could understand it. She loved Rogerson in a way that had never happened with anyone else, falling for him quickly from the start. Throughout the entire book, I just felt pity for both her and Rogerson. References were made to his father's hand more than once- it was certainly not a one time thing with him and even at the end of the book, I didn't entirely hate him. I still felt empathy towards the boy who had made many mistakes, forged his own rough path, and was having to live with the consequences. I also had to wonder, once word got out of the abusive relationship, how Rogerson's father dealt with it- and how many hits the boy had to take.

Right at the beginning of the book, the dissonance between Caitlin and her older sister Cass is shown. When Caitlin wakes up on her birthday morning to find her sister gone, having run off with her boyfriend, she talks about how much she doesn't want to be in her sister's shadow anymore. Having the burden of her parent's needs fall on her didn't help any of the situations and though it seemed incredibly random for her to see Rogerson outside a party and just go with him, I could also see her reasons. Cass would never do that- if Caitlin did, she would be set apart. The same went for cheerleading and many other things, her life first becoming a way to be different and then fading into the background while she tried to hide every mark and bruise.

All Caitlin had known for years, however, was how to follow and unknowingly, that's exactly what she did walking out the door with Rogerson that first night. She went along with everything he did, finding ways to ignore the bad. In some ways, her parents were ignorant and didn't pay attention but even if they doted on her every move, Caitlin still could have easily hid what was happening- she did. There were opportunities for her to tell but she kept them in, every time. This wasn't a result of bad parenting- it was a result of a teenager trying to figure out who she was, forced into it at an uncomfortable time.

It wasn't until close the end when things started kicking up in intensity that I found myself completely engrossed in this book but this experience was interesting. As the title of the book suggests, Caitlin was going through her life almost in a dreamlike state, keeping things at a distance from her and that's how I felt in much of this book- like it was a little distant. Dessen's writing pulled everything together, however, leaving me stunned by the end.

Only because I felt there were a places where things lagged am I giving this one 4 stars but the characters were fantastically done, the emotions charged, and the plot easy to follow. I would love to say teenage girls could read this book and know to get help in this same situation but for the same reasons Caitlin hid it, I know they won't. This book brings to light how easy an abusive relationship is to hide and how smoothly the cycle of abuse can continue, each victim taking it in silence.

Source: Purchased at Borders
Paperback, 256 pages
Penguin Group (USA) IncorporatedMay 01, 2004
ISBN13: 9780142401750
ISBN: 0142401757
BINC: 7522099
Age: 12 - 16 years
Grade: 6 - 11

What Others Think


  1. My high school girls adore anything written by Sarah Dessen. She is a big favorite! Thanks for a great review. :-)

  2. This is a great story with a really great message. A very difficult read at times yet absolutely worth it.

  3. I read this book last year and was amazed by it. I hope that girls in this situation will speak up after reading a book like this, or their friends will for them. I know teens often don't want to tell when they are victimized because somehow they feel ashamed or to blame. I hope books like this will convince them otherwise.

  4. Great review! I'm glad you liked it, I think I might have to re-read this one :)

  5. WOW, seems like a strong emotion filled book

  6. I've read most of Dessen's novels and while "The Truth About Forever" is still my favorite, this runs a close second. It is so powerful and beautifully written...I just love it.
    Thanks for the great review!

  7. This sounds excellent, and it's a topic that needs to be addressed. I will be looking for this novel!