Dreamrider

Dreamrider

4.0 3
by Barry Jonsberg
     
 

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Michael Terny is at his seventh school in four years and he knows that whatever he does, he will be ridiculed and pushed around. Michael is the fat kid. But Michael is also a lucid dreamer–he can recognize when he is dreaming and make the dream unfold exactly as he wants. Here he is safe and completely in control. Safe that is, until he finds the dream world and… See more details below

Overview

Michael Terny is at his seventh school in four years and he knows that whatever he does, he will be ridiculed and pushed around. Michael is the fat kid. But Michael is also a lucid dreamer–he can recognize when he is dreaming and make the dream unfold exactly as he wants. Here he is safe and completely in control. Safe that is, until he finds the dream world and real world colliding . . . and a passage between the two promises more power than he has ever imagined. With the help of an unexpected friend at his new school, Michael plans how to use his power–to reward the good and wreak vengeance on the wicked. . . . But is Michael really in control? Nothing is quite as it seems in this book, and the shocking ending will have readers furiously flipping back to begin reading again with opened eyes.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The opening of this absorbing drama may startle with its graphic violence. Jonsberg (The Crimes and Punishments of Miss Payne), an Australian high school teacher, does not shy away from darkness, whether considering his beleaguered and bullied protagonist, the grotesquely overweight Michael Terny, or the supporting characters-the kind-faced classmate, the well-meaning stepmother, the cruelly intelligent tormenter-who orbit Michael's pain-filled world as he enters a new school, his eighth in four years. Michael is a "lucid dreamer" who learns to "ride" or control what happens in his sleep with a confidence that eludes him in his waking life, even as his actions during sleep begin to spill into reality. Don't mistake this novel for fantasy, however. It has fantastic elements, yes, but it switches genres at a climactic moment. Readers will be chilled by the author's unflinching and innovative treatment of the horrors and hopelessness engulfing the victim of bullying. Jonsberg's prose is spare, his pacing excellent, his plotting memorable. Ages 14-up. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Caroline B. Hopenwasser
"Are you really here or am I dreaming? I can't tell dreams from truth." This line from a song in the movie Once perfectly describes Michael Terny's life. Michael is a fat, lonely high school student whose mother was killed by a drunk driver and whose father has mostly checked out of his life since then. The book opens with Michael preparing to attend his seventh new school in four years. He knows that, as the fat kid, he will be bullied and harassed. The only facet of his life that Michael has control over is his dreams. As a lucid dreamer, Michael can control the course of his dreams and make them unfold as he wishes. Over the course of the book, the line between Michael's dreams and his reality becomes more and more blurred until the reader comes to realize that Michael is not the reliable narrator he first appeared to be. This is an excellent book, telling a gripping story of teenage bullying and mental illness. Reviewer: Caroline B. Hopenwasser
School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up- Starting at a new school is always hard, but Michael Terny's size makes him a larger and easier target for bullies. His dad constantly pressures him to fight back, but the teen quails at the thought of physical confrontation. In dreams, however, he finds that he is the one in control, and begins to take revenge on his tormentors. Embracing his role as a self-proclaimed dispenser of justice, Michael tempers his vengeance by healing those in need. Ultimately, is he truly in control, or is he trapped between dreaming and waking? His older voice is at odds with the high school setting, and teens will feel as though the narrator is talking down to them. Though the fact that Michael's mother is dead creates some sympathy, the tenuous emotional connection deteriorates, as he stills seems too bland, even when breaking another student's fingers. An underdeveloped Australian setting nags at readers, gradually unraveling the cohesiveness of the plot. The Sixth Sense ending, asking readers to determine what was "all in your head" and what might be real, will leave readers frustrated, especially as the author is not generous with clues. Shooting for an introspective and suspenseful tale, Jonsberg instead creates a muddled Shyamalan imitation.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA

Kirkus Reviews
From the first line-"I killed two kids at school today"-to the closing Messianic reference, this follows Michael through one week in the tortured and bullied life of a fat kid in his seventh new school. Michael's only refuge is his ability to have "lucid dreams," which allow him to control his painful reality. His life is not without kindness from a well-meaning but dithering stepmother; a plump, sympathetic classmate; a wise teacher; an administrator. The latter two are powerless to help Michael who understandably resists accusing his assailants. But after years of physical and emotional abuse, Michael's "dreamriding" is perverted from acts of kindness to violent acts of retribution. It emerges that Michael himself is an unreliable narrator, that nothing and no one is as it seems, that the story can be read and interpreted on many levels. Undeniably compelling but darkly disturbing and ultimately deeply perplexing. (author's note) (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher

“Dreamrider is an eerie, absorbing novel which will have readers squirming. Astonishing.”—AussieReviews.com

“Readers will be intrigued by the many paranormal ideas presented in a story that gradually and effectively reveals its many layers.”—Booklist

“Jonsberg’s prose is spare, his pacing excellent, his plotting memorable.”—Publishers Weekly

“Readers who love the shocking twists of Fight Club or The Sixth Sense will revel in the movie-ready bizarre turns this novel takes, and they will likely find themselves flipping back to reread key passages.”—The Bulletin

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375849466
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
02/12/2008
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

I killed two kids at school today.

My first day. I wandered the school grounds, looking for differences. The way the sun hit the grass, the arrangement of litter, the smells.

They came at me from opposite sides. I kept my head down. Part of me knew it would do no good, but I walked and watched from the edge of vision.

"Hey. You. Fat bastard."

On cue. Like a film you've seen before so you know the words before they're spoken. I walked. Kept my head down, looking for differences. I couldn't see any.

"I'm talking to you, fat bastard."

I stopped. But I kept my head down. Still.

A blade of grass. I watched. It differed. Maybe the way the spine curved, or the sheen of green. Wrong, somehow. An insect crawled along the blade's curve. It changed the world. Everything changes the world--the insect on the grass, the shadows over the oval.

They arrived. I heard their breathing. Their dark shadows slanted across the grass. I waited.

"I'm talking to you, fat boy. And when I'm talking to you, you should look at me."

"Yeah. Look at him, fat boy."

I looked at him. He had freckles. A face someone had doodled on, not getting the patches of color right. Dark red hair. Matted, as though he hadn't showered in a week. His eyes were light blue, the color of pale flowers in cold climates. I tried to see beyond them. I can do that. There was only pain, loneliness, and fear. There's always fear.

We stared at each other, the fat boy and the boy with ice for eyes.

And I waited.

"So what have you got to say for yourself, fat boy? Eh? Why'd you ignore me? Too good for me? Is that it, huh? He thinks he's too good for us, Damien."
Damien was small, thin and wiry. An athlete. His eyes were screwed up. I couldn't read them because he was facing the sun. He stood like someone who owned the ground beneath him.

"Yeah, I reckon, Callum. Why do you think you're too good for us, fat boy?"

"I'm just a fat boy," I said. "That's all. I'm not too good for you. I'm not good enough. I'm fat. I'm nothing."

The red-haired boy was confused. It happens that way sometimes. They want the right to attack. But I was agreeing. If they bashed me now, they'd feel bad about themselves. And they wanted their punches to be pure. Righteous.

The red-haired boy shifted, put his hands on his hips.

"Are you being a wiseass, fat boy?"

"No," I said.

"Well, I think you are. What do you reckon, Damien? Is he a wiseass?"

"Yeah. He's a wiseass big-time. You're asking for it, fat bastard. So why don't you say you're sorry? Maybe if you apologize, we'll forget it this time."

The red-haired boy moved in a little.

"Yeah. We need an apology, fat boy."

"I'm sorry," I said.

Callum poked me in the chest with a hard finger.

"You need to show you're sorry. How about on your knees? Yeah, get on your knees and say you're sorry for being such a wiseass."

So I got down on my knees. In the middle of the oval. As though I was praying. I bent my head. The blade of grass was closer now and still wrong. I focused. The insect climbed its plane, the east face of a green mountain. I counted the legs. They seemed right. And then I saw the difference.

It was subtle. The way the light hit the stalk. The sun was behind me, and the boys' shadows pointed away, toward where it would set. But the light on this blade of grass came from the wrong direction. The right side of the blade was polished, burnished by light, and the left shadowed. Wrong. The tip of the blade, curved away from me, should have been touched by gold.

I knew. So I stood.

"I told you to get on your knees, fat boy," said Callum.

I looked at him closely. Once I notice the first difference, even if it's small, others follow, bigger and bigger, until the whole world is different. Callum's eyes were brown now. His freckles shifted into a birthmark on his right cheek. His hair was a darker shade of red. Like rust.

I could take my time, so I turned to Damien. He had shrunk and the athlete was gone. He no longer squinted into the sun, because the sun had moved directly above us. I wanted it that way.

"I'm not sorry," I said. "I haven't done anything to be sorry about. You started this. Not me. So I'm not sorry, and I'm not getting down on my knees."

Callum glanced at his mate. My words were a detour into unfamiliar territory, and he had no map to give directions. I wanted him to bluster. So he did.

"I don't care what you think, fat boy," he said. "I don't give a shit. So you'd better say sorry real quick or . . ."

"I'll be sorry?" I said.

"Yeah," he said.

"Look," I said. "I'll tell you what I think and you'll listen. Every school I've been to, you were there. Sometimes you were taller, sometimes smaller. Your hair changes, your clothes change, but you don't. Not what's inside. It's always dark. I can taste it, that darkness. And it tastes of blood and fear and hopelessness."

"You're weird," said Damien.

"It's time to hit me," I said.

The boys glanced at each other. Nervous. Callum's eyes shifted back to me. One had turned green. His fist balled and he rocked back on his heels to get the weight right. He was scared but he had to punch me now. I'd given him no choice.

His fist swung back, and I put my face forward a little. I watched as the knuckles arced toward me. It was not a bad punch, considering I had chipped his confidence. I'd felt worse. When his fist landed on my cheek, just below my left eye, I felt the bone give. But I didn't fall.

From the Hardcover edition.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Dreamrider is an eerie, absorbing novel which will have readers squirming. Astonishing.”—AussieReviews.com

“Readers will be intrigued by the many paranormal ideas presented in a story that gradually and effectively reveals its many layers.”—Booklist

“Jonsberg’s prose is spare, his pacing excellent, his plotting memorable.”—Publishers Weekly

“Readers who love the shocking twists of Fight Club or The Sixth Sense will revel in the movie-ready bizarre turns this novel takes, and they will likely find themselves flipping back to reread key passages.”—The Bulletin

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