Life is But a Dream
By: Brian James
Genre: YA Contemporary
Coffee Beans: 3.5/5
Favorite Line:It's too hard…when all of the things I believe stop being true…it just hurts too much. PG 233 (ebook version)
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.
Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it's the world that's crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she'll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? her decision may have fatal consequences.
Brian James calls Life is But a Dream "the most intense book I've written. Bringing this unique character to life and seeing the world through her eyes, with all its beauty and confusion, was an immense challenge that I hope is just as rewarding to read as it was to write." Intense--yes. Unforgettable--definitely.
This was an interesting book and I tossed around around for a while about how I wanted to write the book report. Sabrina, the main character, has schizophrenia and this story documents her journey through discovering what she has and how she handles it. I know nothing about this disease other than what I read about it in books or see in movies (and we all know how reliable those sources can be) so forgive me if some of my comments are a result of my lack of education.
Let's start with what I appreciate about it.
This book is told 100% from Sabrina's point of view. And let me tell you, reading it, exhausted me. To constantly be in her world--in her mind--thinking what she thinks, experiencing and seeing what she does--it left me speechless; that there are actually people out there in the world living with this day in and day out. It's just amazing. I have a whole new appreciation for the amount of strength those people possess. Now, saying that (and I'm assuming James isn't pulling from experience, but I could be wrong), I can only imagine the strength and patience and talent James has to write Sabrina's story from inside her head for 239 pages. And in such constant detail. There wasn't a page or a paragraph that we weren't in her head, experiencing the colors or images. The details were amazing.
Throughout the story, Sabrina is struggling to find her way through her disease. Coming to terms with what it means to have schizophrenia and deciding how she wants to handle it. Deciding if the doctors know best or if she does or if a stranger does. I really enjoyed the way James played that entire internal struggle and the way he had the events unfold. To me, it was believable and fitting. James gives the reader great insight into why these people do what they do. You understand it and their actions start to make sense.
Now, onto the things I didn't appreciate so much.
I was so scattered inside Sabrina's head that I didn't get a chance to connect or empathize with her. Not until the very end, when my hopes and heart crushed along with hers. But that was only for a page or two, max. The relationship with Alec, to me, was entirely unbelievable. Now, that could be due to my ignorance of the disease (for example, I don't know if being schizophrenic makes you fall in love immediately, etc), but I have a very hard time believing she fell in love with him and he her in a day. I felt cheated, especially since Alec was such a driving force in her decisions and the propulsion in her story.
The novel is told in the present tense, from the Wellness Center, and then in flashes from Sabrina's past—events that led her to where she is today. But the flashbacks aren't linear, and while that wasn't life-shattering, it was a little confusing and jarring when I had to sit and try and place a memory in the timeline of Sabrina's life.
Like I said in my little blip for this book under Just Read…, the story didn't start getting interesting for me until the very end. And then it was over. The beginning was a little slow, and I felt a good chunk of the book was set up. It wasn't exactly boring, but I wasn't reading it because I just had to know what was going to happen next. It was more like, I needed to get to the end and write a review. It wasn't bad or boring content, but neither was it exciting or snappy. It was just everyday stuff that kept the story churning at a steady pace.
This next part could also be attributed to my lack of knowledge of schizophrenia, but throughout the story, I got this overwhelming feeling of immaturity from Sabrina, even though she's a senior in high school. If this is how the disease effects its victims, then WELL-STINKIN'-DONE, James. Well done indeed. Great job. If, however, it's not, then there needed to be some hefty work done on that. PS – I want to let you know that I called the ending of this book (or pretty stinking close to it) by page 90.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel. It was an interesting look into a unique topic. There was a nice little lesson/warning to be heeded at the end and a cute bow with a HEA tag. It fit the story, so I was happy, even if I wasn't overly obsessed with the book. Pick it up, I think it'd be worth your time if you have some spare hours to fill with a book.
Happy reading, my friends!