So this was a short book to get through (only 260 pages) but it left a big impact. I thought at first that things moved a bit slow, but once you get to the meat of the story, you won't be able to put this down at all. You are going to just be shocked and dismayed at the things that are going on with the main character (Caitlin) throughout this book.
"Dreamland" opens on Caitlin's birthday when she and her parents realize that her older sister Cassandra has ran away to be with a guy she fell in love with after like three weeks. Cassandra does not go to Yale and stays away from her family and refuses to talk to them. Caitlin is left adrift since she is not used to being her, without her perfect older sister nearby to emulate. This leaves a hole in Caitlin where a boy named Rogerson Biscoe (his name even sounds douchey) steps in. Before Caitlin realizes it, somehow her whole life becomes Rogerson.
I felt for Caitlin. Her mother becomes a barely functioning person at first, and her father is in denial after her sister runs away. She's trying her best to not be a problem, that even means not complaining when no one celebrates her birthday. She's talked into joining the cheerleading squad by her best (and only friend) though she doesn't want to and after she starts seeing Rogerson, her grades fall and she's spending most of her time getting high with him and his other friends. It's like a slow roll to another world and Caitlin doesn't know how to or even want to really get out of it. That is until Rogerson hits her the first time. And then the book goes dark. Because you read about Caitlin's justifications, her fear, her starting to realize after a while that even when she's perfect that Rogeron really just wants a reason to hit her. I wanted to scoop up this fictional character and hug her.
Dessen does a good job of showing Caitlin realizing that she's in a bad relationship, but not really knowing how to get out of it. And with her parents still focused on other matters, it becomes easy for her to fool them into thinking everything is okay with her.
Dessen always has recurring characters in her YA books and I swear that Rogerson was in Lock and Key (which I also loved). Too bad no one ran him over with a car.
I also love how Dessen shows all of these women in this book in relationships they call "love" but honestly are not. Or at least I would not call them love between two people who trust and respect each other. Cassandra's life is a mess and her deciding that her parents put all their hopes into her to have her run off with some dude did not endear her to me at all. Even Caitlin's best friend who is only defined when she is dating someone I found a bit sad. So when Caitlin even when she realizes that Rogerson hitting her is awful and she doesn't think she can keep hanging on to him, I get why she hid what was going on and kept trucking along with it. That's cause she's told over and over again that love is the answer even when the other person is not right for you. I think a little window opens up a bit when Caitlin finds out another friend of hers finally had it with her deadbeat boyfriend and left him.
The writing was raw and honest. And I loved how you had Caitlin slowly coming into her own and realizing that maybe her sister was not as perfect as she always thought.
The ending was a surprise and I love that the book didn't just take an easy way out with and everything was super okay with everyone, the end.