Book Review: Dreamology, Lucy Keating (2016)

April 15th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Would make a most excellent ’80s teen movie!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss.)

I MADE HIM up. At least that’s what I always told myself. The combination of all my childhood adorations, combined into one perfect guy. The trouble is, I was wrong. Because right now Max is sitting directly across the quad from me, reading our psych textbook and pausing every few minutes to type something on his phone. He’s wearing a heather-gray T-shirt and I want to go over and sit on his lap.

In this moment, watching Max, I picture my heart as one of Jane’s beloved fish. How many ways could it possibly be murdered before Max is through with me? I picture it now, swimming with a bunch of other little heart muscles down a stream, before they are all caught up in a net, jumping and wiggling around.

Alice and Max have been dreaming of each other since they were children. They’ve traveled the (dream) world together. They’ve had food fights at the Met; played games of Jenga with life-sized foam bricks; boogie boarded down Nan’s grand staircase; and dined on chocolate Legos (all the better to build castles with!). For the past eleven years, they’ve been the one constant, comforting, dependable thing in each others’ lives. Ever since Alice’s mom abandoned the family to study primates in Uganda (and then Madagascar), and Max’s older sister Lila died in a drunk driving accident. Ever since the nightmares began, and their parents enrolled them in the brain mapping study at the Center for Dream Discovery.

Dreams and reality collide when Alice’s father moves the family back to Boston and into her recently deceased Nan’s two-hundred-year-old townhouse. For there, standing in the doorway of her Psych 201 class at Bennett Academy, is Alice’s dream boy. There are just three teeny tiny little problems, though: 1) Max refuses to acknowledge their connection; 2) and already has an IRL girlfriend named Celeste; and 3) as their waking and sleeping lives intersect, Alice and Max begin to have trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy.

Alice is convinced that the answers are hidden in the files of the seemingly-sketchy Dr. Petermann, and the research he conducted on them all those years ago. With the help of Max; her NYC BFF Sophie; and her new Boston bud, Oliver, can Lucy set things right – without sacrificing the boy of her dreams?

You know what they say about not judging a book by its cover? Most of the time I’d concur, whether said book is a metaphor for human beings – or an honest to goodness book. But Dreamology’s cover art perfectly encapsulates the story found within. This is a book filled with whimsy, romance, and glorious, cotton candy-flavored technicolor dreams that you’ll want to call your own.

Alice’s dreams, in fact, are my single favorite part of the story. If I could, I’d scoop out the contents of my own sleeping brain – all slasher flicks and nightmares about being stuck in my first job forever – and replace them with Alice and Max’s delightfully bonkers nighttime adventures. I can certainly understand why Alice was so reluctant to let her rich dream life go – it’s all kinds of awesome. Keating’s writing vis-à-vis the dreams is simply inspired. I also loved how she used them to emphasize certain themes and move the plot forward.

The synopsis likens Dreamology to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – and while this is more than fair, Dreamology is much lighter; more fun and playful; like Sunshine, minus much of the angst and heartache. While there are a few sniffly moments, I went through the story convinced that Alice and Max would end up together (in some way, shape, or form), so perhaps this eased some of the tension I might otherwise have felt. It’s a light, breezy read, like napping on a snow white cloud or drifting on a magic carpet constructed entirely of cotton candy. (And I mean this in the best way possible!)

Keating does a good job of developing the MCs, Alice and Max, as well as supporting characters Oliver and Celeste – but I felt like Sophie could use a little more attention. That said, my paws-down favorite was Jerry – or, perhaps more to the point, the many ridiculous situations Keating places him in. I can especially relate to how Alice dressed her bulldog up in a tutu and pretended to interview him as Oprah. (When she was younger, natch!) I was THAT KID too.

I also love that Keating avoids setting up a stereotypical sexist catfight sitch between would-be rivals Alice and Celeste. I found their evolving relationship so, so refreshing.

Though I gravitated toward Dreamology because of the SF/F element, the actual story is pretty light on science fiction. Keating doesn’t attempt to explain the science behind Alice and Max’s shared dreams – but that’s okay, since it wouldn’t really fit with the tone of the book anyway. Really I’d classify this as more of a contemporary romance -slash- coming-of-age story. Not my usual genre, but I enjoyed it just the same.

A very dreamy four out of five stars.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

 

Comments (May contain spoilers!)

Diversity: Not a lot. Celeste is described as having olive skin and deep brown eyes, but that may be open to interpretation (i.e., there’s nothing else that indicates that she may be a POC). Dr. Petermann’s lawyer is also his sensei, Yoshi Yamamura. Margaret Yang, Dr. Petermann’s student/assistant and the one responsible for Alice and Max’s dreams, may be Asian (her surname suggests as much, but we don’t have a physical description to go on).

Max’s older sister Lila died when he was young (in a drunk driving accident – she was the passenger), and Alice’s mom left her to study primates in Uganda when she was six; both kids started having nightmares, which is how they ended up at the CDD – and with each other. Alice is estranged from her mother, who she hasn’t seen in more than ten years.

Romeo and Juliet – the geese who live at the Public Garden – are minor celebrities (because they’re both ladies).

Animal-friendly elements: Bennett Academy, Alice and Max’s high school in Boston, has vegetarian and vegan options on the dining hall menu. When their psychology teacher Mr. Levy brings chocolate chip cookies to class, he proudly announces that they’re vegan (but contain almond flour, nearly killing the nut-allergic Alice).

Alice recounts how her cousin Jane stayed with her briefly in New York City before beginning college. Jane “had about eight thousand dietary restrictions,” which leads to this amusing rant about “humane” meat:

For example, Jane was a pescetarian, but only if the fish was killed humanely. Excuse me, I imagined Jane asking a waiter at a fancy French restaurant, but was this fish gently euthanized by syringe as soothing symphony music played? Or did it just die of natural causes immediately at the time the fishing boat came by, like a heart attack or brain aneurism?

Alice joins BARA, the Bennett Animal Rescue Association, as one of her three required school clubs. (This is at the very end of the book, though, so we have no idea what their activities entail.)

Alice’s bulldog Jerry has a decent supporting role, which leads to all sorts of adorable scenarios, such as when Alice sees Jerry breeze by on a motorcycle during one of her hallucinations, or recounts how she dressed him up in a tutu and pretended to interview him as Oprah as a kid.

During their trip to visit Margaret Yang, Alice, Max, Oliver, and Sophie stop by an alpaca farm; this passage isn’t terribly (by which I mean at all) critical of exploiting animals for food and clothing.

 

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