Saturday, November 14, 2009

One Girl's Nightmare is Everyone Else's Dreams

What if anytime someone fell asleep in your presence you were suddenly whisked away into their dreams, leaving your body to appear as if it’s having a seizure.

In the book Wake by Lisa McMann, that’s what 17-year-old Janie has had to deal with since she was six, and she’s really getting tired of it. She struggles even going to school where kids are constantly drifting off in class and study hall. Over and over again she lives through the same falling dream, being-naked-in-front-of-everyone dream and even sex dreams. Yet she knows she doesn’t dare tell anyone for fear of being made fun of or thought of as a freak.

One day she is suddenly pulled into Cabel Strumheller’s dream. Cabel is a quiet, yet mysterious older boy in her class. In his dream she witnesses a brutal murder and isn’t sure what to make of it. Slowly the two become friends, and eventually Janie is forced to tell Cabel her secret, including what she saw in his dreams. Cabel, along with a senior citizen Janie meets from her job at the nursing home, help Janie learn more about her ability and how to manage it. However it doesn’t come easy to Janie, and she must undergo a series of tribulations in her quest to be normal.

I really enjoyed this book a lot, and although Janie’s ability is unrealistic, her feelings of simply wanting to be normal are not. Janie is an only child, her father is not in the picture, and her mother is a drunk. She has few friends and struggles immensely with her secret ability. I’m not sure I would teach this book to an entire class but I would definitely recommend it for students’ independent reading. I think students often feel they don’t fit in or have something about them that they believe makes them an outcast. Despite Janie’s insecurity on certain issues, her character overall is resilient, and I think she acts as a good role model for other insecure teenagers. Janie proves that being different is okay and even the seemingly perfect person is not always as perfect as they appear to be.

This book touches upon a lot of serious issues including child abuse, alcoholism, drugs, homosexuality and teenage sex. As a result, I would recommend this book for older students who are more mature. Additionally if a student was interested in reading this, I might also request they get their parents’ permission.

For those who are interested, Lisa McMann recently published a sequel called Fade that I definitely plan on picking up soon!


Anne said...

This book sounds so interesting. i think I may go pick it up. The author's website is definately interesting and you can feel the books through it. Good review with lots of outside information. Sounds like there is a lot packed in this book too.

Andra said...

Wow! What a crazy ability! I think that would be extremely difficult, especially as a teenager. Janie probably feels so alone because of it. Once I'm done reading my books, I will definitely need to pick this one up!

From your review, I would also agree that this book sounds like it would be best for mature readers. I know that our Language Arts teachers have books that they recommend to our more mature students for independent reading, but that they wouldn't teach to a whole class.


heather said...

I agree with the other reviewers - this book sounds very interesting! While it's true that the ability described is unrealistic, it sounds like it was probably a great way for the author to touch on those various issues. Had McMann wanted to touch on so many things through the events of just the main character, the book may have been overwhelmingly depressing. But, it sounds like, by using the dream-ability, Janie becomes a vessel through which we can learn about a lot of issues without feeling bogged down. Very interesting concept from a writing standpoint! I'll have to add this to my "to read" list!

Mallory Umar said...

This book certainly seems very interesting. I like the point that you bring up, while they may not have an ability like this, most children have something that makes them an outcast. Everybody has a quirk or a secret that they hide, fearing social isolation. For teens, this is huge.

Everybody is human, even the popular kids, and people that we percieve to live perfect lives certainly do not. This has been a theme that I've noticed in my YAL reading.

Stephanie said...

I think this book would be a great read for any student. It seems jam packed with a lot of situations that teenagers are often placed in. I think by having this super-natural power would also draw in a different reading crowd. In any YAL I hope to find something relateable, and I believe this book would easily do that.