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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
Living a Nightmare
Sarah Dessen's novels are known for being unerringly polished, for possessing the quintessential young adult voice, and for tackling tough but important subjects. In her latest, Dreamland, Dessen deals with the specter of physical abuse and the cycle of intimidation that can catch female victims of all ages. The victim in this case is young Caitlin O'Koren, whose new boyfriend, Rogerson, seems like a dream come true. However, it doesn't take long for the dream to become a nightmare that threatens to rob Caitlin of everything she holds dear.
Used to living in the shadow of her overachieving older sister, Caitlin has always been something of a loner. When the older sister runs away to be with a boyfriend, Caitlin is left behind to deal with her mother's anguish and her father's seeming indifference. While searching for her own identity and some sense of self-worth, Caitlin hooks up with Rogerson Biscoe. Rogerson is a mixed package: He comes from a wealthy, upper-class family, but he also comes with a reputation for being a troublemaker and a rebel. His rebellious lifestyle strikes Caitlin as refreshingly different. Rogerson is different in other ways, too, with his intense demeanor and dreadlock hair.
Though Rogerson doesn't fit in with any of Caitlin's friends, Caitlin is happy to tag along and meet his friends. While she may not always like them, she likes what Rogerson brings out in her, a side of herself that she's never explored. When she learns a terrible secret about Rogerson's life, it brings them closer, and Caitlin finds Rogerson to be an intelligent, sensitive, and caring boyfriend. But that same secret comes back to haunt Caitlin when she sees a side of Rogerson he's never revealed before. Deeply in love and caught in a cycle of abuse she doesn't know how to escape, Caitlin is desperate for someone to notice and help her. Because she can't seem to help herself.
Dessen's dead-on handling of the psychological maelstrom that accompanies an abusive relationship is vivid, heartbreaking, and honest. This is intelligent fiction that takes a hard but realistic look at many of the pressures teens must face as they enter adulthood, including that first brush with true love. Dessen gets her message across loud and clear without any spoon-feeding or preaching, and the sweetly naive but wry voice of Caitlin is captivating, funny, and entertaining.