I am participating in Sarah Dessen Week hosted by the lovely ladies of The Reading Housewives and YA Bibliophile. All week long different blogs will be posting reviews & discussions on all things Sarah Dessen! Be sure to visit the link-up page here to see who all will be participating in this epic tribute to such an amazing YA author!
I am re-posting a review I had written several months back (when GReads had only 10 followers! seriously!). This book, in particular, spoke volumes to me. I know that Sarah Dessen is known for her swoon-worthy characters & that easy-going storyline. But every once in awhile she throws us a curve ball that leaves the reader breathless. Dreamland did just that for me. Below are my original thoughts on the story that lingered inside my head long after I turned the last page.
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Published: September 1, 2000 by Penguin Group
Wow. This intense story caught me off guard & I found it difficult to put down, yet difficult to keep turning the pages as well. In the few book synopsis that I read about this story, I never once read anything about an abusive relationship. So when this story took a turn down a horrible path, I myself felt like I had been slapped in the face. Of course all the signs were there, but like so many people think.. we just didn't want to believe this could be true.
Caitlin is your typical teenage girl trying to find her place in this world. She has always lived in the shadows of her "perfect" older sister Cass. Their parents constantly praising Cass for her accomplishments & staying on her heels so that she never falters from her pristine schedule. Caitlin watches from the side lines & finds herself jealous of her sister's "perfect world" and how much attention she receives from their parents for it. Then one day, that all comes to a crashing halt when Cass has made the decision to run away from home & start her life elsewhere, away from the pressures of her parents & what they had planned for her. Caitlin is left in disbelief. How could her sister leave her like that? So now it is up to Caitlin to fill the holes that Cass has left behind. She feels compelled to become the "perfect" daughter by getting involved in chearleading; which gives her mother an excuse to become busy once again in her daughter's life. Caitlin starts going through the motions & thinks she's doing every one a favor. Then one night she meets Rogerson. Dark, mysterious Rogerson. All her friends tell her to stay away; that he has a bad boy reputation. But Caitlin feels herself being sucked in to his world. She describes it as a "dreamland", a place she never wants to wake up from.
As the story continues there are little signs that keep popping out about Caitlin & Rogerson's relationship. As the reader, you want to believe that Rogerson was put in her life during a difficult time for a reason & he's there only to help & be a positive influence on her life. However, this is so far from the truth! Rogerson becomes controlling of who Caitlin hangs out with & gets annoyed when Caitlin is late for their usual meet ups. He starts saying negative things about her friends & cheerleading. Caitlin, of course, feels like Rogerson hung the moon.. so instead of fighting these words, she just accepts them as part of Rogerson's love for her. Then one night everything just spirals out of control. Rogerson's hand, across Caitlin's face. I think I was just as shocked & appalled as Caitlin was. I knew something wasn't right with Rogerson, I did not like him. But me being who I am, I forced myself to think he had reasons for acting this way & he'd soon redeem himself. That one slap changed everything. My heart literally ached for Caitlin. The world she thought she created for herself, all came crashing down around her.
As the weeks & months went by Caitlin found herself in a constant fear of Rogerson & his moods. She never knew when he might lose it again, so she was always on her toes.. making sure she was never late & always there when he wanted her to be. But she came to find, that wasn't enough. Caitlin was withdrawing herself from her family & her friends. Soon her life become nothing but Rogerson. She was using drugs & skipping school. It was the only escape she could find from this dreamland that had turned in to a nightmare. The boy she thought who was there, with an open door, full of possibilities, had quickly shut all the other doors in her life & she felt trapped.
At this point I found it difficult to keep reading. I wanted to know how it ended, yet I was so afraid for Caitlin. I found myself just as anxious, never knowing when Rogerson may get out of control & hit her again. But I knew I had to push through & finish this story. Just when you didn't think things could get worse, they did. Rogerson hit Caitlin for the final time, leaving her body bruised & mangled on the front lawn of her parent's house. By the grace of God, a neighbor saw them & called the cops.. along with Caitlin's mom who had been so oblivious to what Caitlin's world had become that she didn't even know her own daughter was getting the sh*t beat out of her on their front lawn by her boyfriend. I cried for Caitlin. As the cops took Rogerson away she felt relieved the abuse would end & she could finally talk to someone about this, but she also felt sad for him. Sad that the boy she had grown to love, abuse and everything, would no longer be in her life.
Abuse is something that is real. It happens every day. To all different types of people. It does not just have to be a hand across a face, but words as well. To someone who has never found themselves in this type of relationship, you may wonder why Caitlin did not just leave Rogerson after the first time he hit her. Or why she didn't tell anyone either. Unfortunately when the abuse comes from someone you love, the answers are not that simple. Caitlin was already in a messed up situation, Rogerson saw that & took advantage of it. It is NEVER ok for someone to treat another person this way. But sadly, it happens. I hope this book opens people's eyes to the truth behind domestic abuse. There is always a way out & no one has to live this way. Thankfully Caitlin was able to wake up from this dreamland before it was too late.