I don’t care who you are, we all love a little bit of romance. But I cannot hand a book about a relationship to a student without making sure there’s a twist. See, while I have a healthy respect for love, I hate to see it idealized. Enter Dreamland by Sarah Dessen.
Dreamland shows the dark side of romance and passion. And I love my dark overtones in writing. Keep reading to find out more. (If you’re looking for the quick facts, you can scroll to the bottom of this post.)
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What Drew Me To Dreamland by Sarah Dessen?
Unlike my other reviews, I actually didn’t want to read this one. I had stayed away from all things Sarah Dessen because I knew romance was kind of her thing. I just couldn’t stomach the thought of reading a whole book of teenage relationship drama.
But I knew I had students who were gaga for that kind of thing, and I wanted to be able to give them recommendations. Or at least be able to talk to them about their kind of books. So I forced myself to pick up Dreamland. I’m totally glad I did though, and I’ve gone on to other Dessen novels since then!
What Makes Dreamland “Lit”?
The book did not start with a boy-obsessed protagonist, which was my fear for some reason. No, Caitlin is more upset about her older sister Cass who has gone missing. Cass was the perfect child, the favorite. So when she ups and leaves one night, her family is devastated.
Cailtin feels the need to suddenly fill that “perfect daughter” role for her parents. She joins cheerleading and basically does everything “right.” But the pressure she puts on herself to be someone she’s not weighs on her.
So when Rogerson–a beautiful, mysterious boy who is nothing like the popular crowd she usually hangs around–appears, she’s pretty much smitten immediately.
And this is where I totally fell in love with this book. Despite my anti-fluff romance feelings, I do know what it’s like to be totally caught up with the bad boy. And that’s exactly what happens to Caitlin. Rogerson is dangerous and unpredictable and nothing like Caitlin’s life before.
But the longer they date, the more dangerous he becomes. The relationship becomes abusive and Caitlin finds herself afraid, isolated, and even less like her true self than before.
Maybe it’s because I could relate to this book on such a personal level, but this one really tugged at my heartstrings. I felt for Caitlin and found myself cheering her on, even though I knew how hard it was for her to fight back.
I feel that for the right reader, this could be a great warning about allowing yourself to get too caught up in a relationship. For someone who’s also already been involved in a toxic relationship, I feel that this book could be really healing.
Our students, unfortunately, often come to us with a lot of life experience and much of it is negative. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen acknowledges relationship toxicity that teens can face, while offering hope that it is escapable.
Who’s the Ideal Reader for Dreamland?
While, of course, anyone could enjoy this, I definitely put Dreamland in the hands of girls more than boys. Usually to sell this one all I have say is that the main character dates a drug dealer and students ask for it.
I definitely recommend this to those girls who are always asking for romance and drama. This book could also be a great read for those high achievers who put a lot of pressure on themselves. I think they’ll identify with Caitlin a lot.
But really, anyone who’s ever had their heart broken could probably find something enjoyable in this title.
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen: The Classroom Facts
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: Realistic fiction, dealing with physical & emotional abuse, growing up, and family issues
Setting: Small town America
Main Character: Caitlin, a high school student, who is facing pressure from her family, friends, and herself to be perfect. Meanwhile, she falls for “bad boy” Rogerson while she struggles to find her true self.
Page Numbers: 256
Looking for other titles to add to your classroom library? If you’d like another dark novel, I recommend Broken Things by Lauren Oliver. If you want another book that features a romance but still has some serious themes, try Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.
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