by Barry Jonsberg


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An intense, frightening portrait of a boy driven to the edge . . . and over.

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.

“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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375844584
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 07/14/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Barry Jonsberg divides his time between writing and part-time teaching and finds it very difficult to do one without the other. He lives in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia.

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.

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

Customer Reviews

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Dreamrider 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
As a lucid dreamer, Michael Terny can control the direction of his dreams, and, over the difficult years since his mother's death, he's used that ability to escape the harsh realities of his life. While tucked away in his dreams, it only takes that one little difference, that blip on the screen for him to recognize, to bring him into control. Then, he's no longer the hopeless fat kid who suffers the same fate at each new school, that same tiring choreography of the first day--the seventh in four years. Here, he is the master, and can heal the sickness of those in need and bring pain to his tormentors.

Michael had hoped that Millways High School would be different, and it started promisingly enough, with his finding a friend in a girl named Leah on that very first day. However, he finds the same types of kids following him, promising the same problems he's tried to escape. What's more is that parts of his dreams seem to be leaving their mark on the real world. Is it possible that he might be able to influence the things that happen in real life through the power of his dreams? If that's the case, then it might be time for Michael to start fighting back, and not just in the ways his dad keeps telling him.

But one must wonder if Michael's perceptions are accurate. Even his allies may not be what they seem. How much of the dreamworld has crossed over?

This masterfully written book challenges the reader's preconceptions of reality--their own as well as that of those around them. Interesting and thought-provoking, it appeals to those who love seeking details, and finding where the puzzle pieces fit together. Some harsh language and violence, fitting for more mature readers.
MeriJenBen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overweight and bullied, Michael struggles with a distant alcholic father and constant relocations. It is only in his dreams, that he is lucid and in control. In his 7th school in 4 years, Michael attracts the attention of a concerned teacher, a sadistic, yet intelligent bully and a sweet and kind girl. With the urging of his new friend, Michael discovers that his actions in his dreams have real world consequences. I don't get the hoo-hah over this book. The "twist" at the end really wasn't that twist-y. None of the characters are particularly well drawn, and we never really get to know Michael, which makes the revelation at the end that much less powerful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Huge plot twist but i really would'nt recommend this book to anyone i know.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago