I went through this phase when I first found Sarah Dessen books where I ordered every single one. I thought I had read them all but I found Dreamland on my shelf and realized I hadn’t read it yet. May I say, Sarah Dessen has wowed me yet again.
She is easily one of my favorite writers. She does such a good job of not just throwing out dialogue, but adding an emotion or an action that helps us understand the characters better. As a wanna-be-writer, I completely envy her everything she does. Her storylines, her descriptions, her dialogue, and her adding in other things I never would have thought of to make it more meaningful and leave you thinking. Her last paragraphs are amazing, and I am so completely jealous because conclusions are the hardest thing in the world to write.
Like how in Dreamland Caitlin kept referencing the mermaids pulling her down or how she was slowly swimming back to the top. All after the reference of mermaids in one of her classes. Or how she got into photography and then tore that picture of herself to shreds, but kept it. Then she slowly put it together and kept it as a reminder of putting herself back together. Genius. At least I think so.
So aside from my completely biased adoration of all thing Sarah Dessen, this book was so moving to me. Not because I’ve gone through or even witnessed a relationship like this, but just being able to see what Caitlin was going through in it.
This book is about Caitlin trying to cope after her sister, Cass, runs away from home. She’s always been second-best to Cass so she tries to do her own thing, which leads her to Rogerson Biscoe. (I will quick point out Sarah Dessen’s name choices. I’ve never met someone named Rogerson. It kind of threw me off. Not much, but names are a pet peeve for me.) Anyways, Rogerson is a total bad boy. Drug seller/user, problems with the law, bad relationship with his family. Yada yada.
So he ends up with Caitlin and she really likes him. I can’t decide if it’s because of him or because of who she thinks she is with him. (I’m going to guess both.) She feels like she’s not in her sister’s shadow and that she’s making her own path instead of trying to be Cass’ replacement.
Eventually Rogerson starts hitting her. The book from there is Caitlin’s predicament in the relationship. I was so scared for her. She was terrified to do anything. Even being just a second late made her panic. Her scene where she was with Rina and yelling at her for not taking her home killed me. Part of me was like “just tell her! Just tell anybody! It could put an end to this.” But then I remembered how scared she was of Rogerson and I understood.
She was so torn and it broke my heart. She loved him but was scared of him. And that’s how these relationships usually go, right? Otherwise why would they stay and put up with it? It’s either they’re too in love to see how bad they are or they’re too scared of what will happen if they leave.
I also really like that the end wasn’t just an abrupt “this is how it ends, the end” type deal. I like that Sarah Dessen took a good 40 pages to document how it all ends and the transitions and everything.
I’m so used to the usual happy ending pattern of the Sarah Dessen books that this one with such a dark subject matter really caught me off guard. I really enjoyed it. I know it sounds depressing and not a romantic piece of fluff that I usually read, but the ending isn’t one that leaves you depressed, especially for the subject matter of the novel.
So if you have as big of an awkward worshiping relationship to Sarah Dessen as I do, you actually will probably have already read this. But if you haven’t yet DO. If you haven’t even heard of Sarah Dessen, GET TO IT. She’s amazing. Honestly.