Author: Alyson Noël
Warning: Spoilers (and I spill the ending).
Dreamland picks up with Riley and Bodhi having to explain themselves to the Council about Rebecca. After assuring Riley that they already know everything, Aurora, the head of the Council, says that Riley and Bodhi are in need of a break. She also says they are in need of greater challenges in the future, so the Council will do their best to provide the duo with the challenges they seek.
Riley realises she has no social life in the Here & Now. She has her family and dog Buttercup, but her friends are all alive on Earth. Riley feels isolated; her parents live in their own house, while she lives alone in a replica of the one from her hometown. Her parents have their own destinies to live out, and it’s implied they don’t check on Riley that often. Riley also notices that she looks the same as she did on Earth. She looks like a twelve-year-old kid—which she is—instead of the thirteen-year-old teenager she desperately wants to be.
After rearranging her bedroom a little and getting some new clothes for herself, Riley feels a little better. She tells her parents and grandparents all about getting the Radiant Boy to cross over. She hangs out with her family for a day; her grandpa teaches her how to surf, her grandma shows her how to swaddle a newborn baby in its blanket, her dad lets her sing lead in his band, and her mom helps her paint a picture of landscape. After the day with her family, Riley understands she can’t live like that forever. She has to move on and be happy—build a life outside of Soul Catching and her family.
Riley tries to find something to do, hopefully making some new friends in the process, when she runs into an old man named Mort. Mort once told her something vague about visiting someone’s dream. Riley had been wondering how she could contact her sister for a long time, and visiting her in a dream might be the only way. Despite the fact that Mort doesn’t like it, he agrees to take Riley to Dreamland, which is where dreams are made.
Once at Dreamland, the man in charge, Balthazar, takes an intense liking to Buttercup, so Riley gets to skip to the front of the line. However, all people who want to send a message through a dream have to be given the okay from Balthazar. Balthazar tells Riley that there are actually two ways someone can send a dream: Dreamjumping and dreamweaving. Dreamjumping is when you crash a person’s dream, share a message, and participate. Dreamweaving is when you create an entire dream in a studio and send it to the dreamer.
He asks her all these questions about how she died and about Ever, and then he asks a difficult question: What her agenda is. Riley stammers, caught off-guard; she’d been so caught up with finding Dreamland that she hadn’t thought about her message. She says her message is to check in on Ever. Balthazar approves her purpose, so he teaches her the ropes of dreamjumping, explaining that dreamweaving was outlawed long ago and the studio is all boarded up.
After an afternoon of learning how to dreamjump, Riley is finally ready to send a message to Ever. Unfortunately, because it took so long for her to learn the ropes, Dreamland has reached its closing time. Riley pretends to leave with Mort, but at the last minute she sneaks back in to the studio, using the excuse that she forgot a bracelet that can’t be replaced.
Riley meets a boy named Satchel, who is responsible for dreamweaving nightmares. Satchel says that nightmares are necessary so people can overcome their fears. He creates a scenario of Riley’s fears—going to school without her clothes, her teacher having the face of a clown and the body of a spider, being chased by knife-wielding zombies. Satchel says the nightmares he weaves remind people of how small and fragile they are, how they can die at any minute and they have to be careful.
Riley finally asks what happened to make Satchel a nightmare-creating dead guy. Instead of telling her, Satchel decides to show her—since they’re both dead, they can read each others’ thoughts. When he was alive, Satchel was the boy everyone made fun of in school. There was this one girl, Mary Angel O’Connor, who was nice to him, and he had a crush on her. Satchel’s parents were obsessed with their son’s safety—he never had a real childhood because of this.
When he was thirteen, a carnival comes to Satchel’s town. His parents take him, but he can’t go on any rides, eat anything fun, or spend his father’s money on rigged games. Satchel has every intention of keeping this promise until he sees Mary Angel. Satchel tells his parents he is going to ask a teacher about a school assignment, and his parents give him three minutes.
In those three minutes, Satchel tries to say hi to Mary Angel, but she and her friends get in line for the Ferris wheel. Despite the fact that his parents warned him about the Ferris wheel—apparently, it’s the most dangerous carnival ride—Satchel gets on, sitting in the car below Mary Angel. So there he is, having the time of his life on a carnival ride, when Jimmy Mac—a bully—starts rocking his car. This makes Mary Angel laugh, and Satchel, wanting to make her laugh—starts rocking his car. Unfortunately, he shakes the car a little too hard and he falls out. The fall from so high up in the air kills him.
Riley tries to make Satchel believe it was an accident, but he won’t believe it. He said that if he’d listened to his parents, he’d still be alive. Riley reluctantly gives up; Satchel is obviously not ready to forgive himself and Riley needs to return to the Here & Now. Outside the studio, she finds Buttercup and Bodhi waiting for her; Buttercup followed her scent and lead Bodhi to her.
Riley and Bodh have a talk. And for once, it’s a nice talk. Half the time when they’re talking, they’re arguing and getting in each other’s grills. This time, Bodhi is actually nice to Riley, and she in turn is actually nice to him. Bodhi tells Riley that she can’t succeed all the time. He also tells her that if she ever wants to be a teenager, she has to stop throwing temper tantrums.
While Riley doesn’t have a birthday—since she’s dead—she can still age. The glow she got for getting the Radiant Boy to cross over reflects maturity. As she ages, the glow changes colour.
I really liked Dreamland; I liked it a lot more than I expected. My favourite part was when Riley visited Ever in a dream. Yes, even through the whole mess with Satchel, she managed to talk to Ever. Balthazar comes back and helps Riley dreamjump. This time she gets it, and Riley asks Ever for help in growing up.
Ever is amazed that Riley is asking for help; one of Riley’s qualities is that she likes to do things by herself, without guidance. Ever tells Riley turning thirteen just happened and that it’s not something you can force; it just comes naturally. Ever also tells Riley that when she turned thirteen, she didn’t feel ready. Unfortunately, the dream is interrupted by a nightmare, courtesy of Satchel, but Riley feels like she got all her questions answered.
The book ends with Bodhi approaching Riley and saying the Council has an assignment for her.
I’d give this book 4.5 stars out of five. The reason for 4.5 is the length. The book is only two hundred pages. Very quick read, but this could be because these books are geared toward middle-schoolers, and I’m a high-school student with a very high reading level. But I’d appreciate the books all the more if the length were increased. I’d recommend this book and I’m happy to say I’ll be continuing with this series.