– SPOILER FREE REVIEW –
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Title: The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams
Author: Jeff Russell
Release date: September 30th, 2015
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What if a person could live in their dreams? What if the power of imagination could erase the inequities of life? The staff at Eden Perpetual Life Care makes that possible and Katrina Hammond turns to them when nothing else can ease the pain of her mother’s progressive illness. The residents of Eden live in a medically-induced dream state, a fantasy world based on their secret desires. They are freed from the torments of their physical existence but at a terrible price, for where her mother goes Kat cannot follow. When Eden offers Kat the position of in-house neurologist, letting her pursue her vocation while watching over her mother’s dreams, she reluctantly agrees. And when investigative reporter Morgan Brewer shows Kat what it means to be young and alive her own dreams start coming true.
But dreams are not always what they seem. An anomaly in the brainwave patterns of some residents suggests subconscious distress, and when Kat defies management’s order not to probe deeper she discovers something sinister taking place behind the pristine walls of Eden. Unsure of what to believe or who to trust she must now find a way to rescue her mother and the other residents before she herself becomes trapped in their perpetual nightmare.
The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams holds an interesting premise: What if we can live on in our dreams? An idea that reminded me a bit of Black Mirror’s San Junipero. Though I loved that concept and appreciated how realistic the author made it sound, the novel failed to develop all the other aspects I was interested in.
Sometimes accepting the impossible is easier than trying to explain it. Accepting allows us to move on.
The novel started off strong, with good writing, some mysteries and a lot of potential for character growth. However, as the book carried along, I saw some of these aspects being dragged out without much really altering. It also baffled me that a scene early on revealed a part of the story that should have remained a mystery. I was left with a clueless main character trying to figure out something I already knew.
It didn’t help that I couldn’t connect with Kat. I appreciated that she was a dedicated doctor who wanted to do the right thing and be careful, but that also made her naive. She started out as realistically insecure, but her fear of confronting those in power and her lack of self-confidence became repetitive and ultimately stunted her growth.
Also, she threw a slut-shaming comment at the beginning of the novel that didn’t sit well with me at all. Clothes are not an invitation for disrespect or hateful comments:
Kat brushed it off, acknowledging that those who dress to attract attention should not complain when they receive it.
As I said before, things became repetitive after the first part. The medical processes were explained with detail time and time again, which could have being avoided. Then, when the plot was wrapping up, it went by too fast. I would have liked more time dedicated to the ending.
What I enjoyed about this novel were the themes – dreams, immortality and afterlife. The controversy they spark is definitely worth discussing. It helped me imagine what would happen if a process like the one in the novel is introduced in real life. My only concern comes from the characters with disabilities. Kat’s mom sacrifices herself for her daughter, which is something hearbreaking but understandable coming from a mother. My problem here was that she viewed herself as an inconvinience because of her chronic illness and neither Kat nor the narrative disputed her on that.
The human quest for immortality. The body can’t last forever and so we calm our fears by believing that the conscious entity lives on.
Overall, it’s a novel with very interesting themes, but that suffers from over-exposition at times. Also, the characters never truly engaged me, but if you are interested in the themes and in medical thrillers that don’t shy away from detailing the science, check this one out.