Author: Adrienne Stoltz & Ron Bass
Genre: YA, contemporary, magical reality
Publication Date: October 2, 2012 (Razorbill/Penguin – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: What if you could dream your way into a different life? What if you could choose to live that life forever?
Sloane and Maggie have never met. Sloane is a straight-A student with a big and loving family. Maggie lives a glamorously independent life as an up-and-coming actress in New York. The two girls couldn’t be more different–except for one thing. They share a secret that they can’t tell a soul. At night, they dream that they’re each other.
The deeper they’re pulled into the promise of their own lives, the more their worlds begin to blur dangerously together. Before long, Sloane and Maggie can no longer tell which life is real and which is just a dream. They realize that eventually they will have to choose one life to wake up to, or risk spiraling into insanity. But that means giving up one world, one love, and one self, forever.
☆: 4/5 stars – an absolutely delicious debut!
Review: Oh wow. So. This book reminded me a ton of “Inception” – the lucid dreaming (for which the book is named), the question if one is awake or asleep, the worldbuilding, all of it. Christopher Nolan would be proud. I myself have often wondered when asleep – am I really dreaming someone else’s day? Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass have put together a wonderful book answering just that question.
This one’s a little hard to review, because it’s both character and plot driven. To find a book like this is rare, balancing the two pretty evenly up until the end, and to talk about it is difficult, to say the least. Both Maggie and Sloane are convinced that they’ve been dreaming the other’s daily exploits everyday for their entire lives, so they both get equal screentime talking about their day, until things start getting out of hand, and the question of sanity comes heavily into play. That was really refreshing – both having equal screentime instead of one over the other, and both worlds were built really well, with very realistic characters. It’s an extremely well-balanced book in general, up until the end, and that was just really refreshing to read.
The other technical areas are more or less flawless, too, so I’ll talk more about other areas and things I just loved about this book in this review.
All of that being said, while the plot is very clean-cut, the ending really isn’t, and I love how the authors had the courage to leave it so open-ended as to let the reader really decide their own ending. Was it all real? Was it all a dream? Was it both? This is one of the best standalones I’ve read in a long time precisely because of this open-ended question that we get from the authors. Because of how vivid the writing was for both girls, it made me wonder if one or both of the authors had experience with lucid dreaming themselves. I do – as a result of me having sleepwalking nightmares as a kid, I was taught lucid dreaming as a technique to control them and stay in bed by a shrink. Even now, almost twenty years later from my first round of lessons on the subject, I’m still able to lucidly dream and recall my dreams very easily. There’s really something to be said for lucid dreaming as you can build worlds upon worlds in your head and dream them and yet know they’re probably not real – keyword here being probably. And that’s where the authors of this book really focus on things in the plot – is any of these two girls’ “dreamed lives” real at all?
There’s also the question of if this book is even paranormal at all, if there are paranormal or supernatural doings within this book – and the authors cleverly don’t really answer that until the end – and when we do get an answer, it’s as I said before, very open-ended and leaves the reader to decide. The quality of writing is intensely cinematic, so when I found out the writers are both long-time screenwriters, it really wasn’t a surprise. Both the lives of Maggie and Sloane are so vividly wrought that you can feel the tension on both sides, feel how the feel, their joy, their fear, and as things start to go to hell, their absolute terror at the idea of losing one another. I have had dreams like that, and it just definitely stuck in me long after I’d finished the book. Having to say goodbye to someone who may or may not be real is just as scary regardless if they’re real or not, because your heart is still with them. And the authors really did a wonderful job portraying that.
That being said, this is not an easy book to read. It’s very twisty and bendy and it will force you to open your mind to the possibility that’s very Schrodinger’s Cat-esque – the fact that they both might be living and not living at the same time, dreaming and not dreaming at the same time, and so forth. Movies like “Black Swan”, “Memento”, “The Warrior and the Princess”, and “Inception” are all built around questions like this – what is real? what is fantasy? – and they’re all some of my favorite movies. I found myself surprisingly bonded to both characters by the end of the book, and there are parts so moving that they shook me to the core (but I won’t reveal what those parts are – I’ll just say they’re mostly toward the end of the book), and reminded me of my own lucid dreaming experiences where I had to choose between dreams, reality, sanity, and love.
The best part? No insta-love. No love triangles. All of the romances here are authentic, and you do have the characters (specifically Maggie) taking stock of what is desire/lust versus what is real love (and her motivations for both) – which was really, really a huge breath of fresh air within YA.
Final verdict? Definitely one of the best in YA contemporary fiction, hands down, this year and definitely one of the most balliest concepts to deploy within a YA contemporary tale within the last few years. This book is incredible, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea because it will give you a LOT to think about. “Lucid” is out now from Razorbill/Penguin in North America, so be sure to check it out. You really can’t afford to miss this debut.