Wake

I know everyone is talking about Twitter, so much so that I refuse to read anymore articles about it, so I apologize in advance for mentioning the service. I mention Twitter because I use it to follow some of my favorite YA authors (Maureen Johnson is particularly amusing) who have introduced me to some writers who are new to me. One of these authors is Lisa McCann who just released the second book in her series about a teen girl who falls into other people's dreams.

The first book is called Wake and is written in a staccato style, so staccato that sometimes it almost feels like reading notes for a book instead of the finished product. It's also written in present tense, which I happen to like, but may be a little jarring to some readers. I think it works well because it adds both a sense of immediacy to the story and a sense of the surreal, which is appropriate to a story so dependant on the dream world.

Jane is seventeen and sick and tired of seeing other people's fears, desires, and insecurities. If she is in physical proximity with someone who falls asleep she ends up in their dream, a helpless observer, forced to watch whatever plays out. She doesn't have to touch the sleeper to get sucked in, she just needs to be within a certain distance, which causes her to wreck her car when she's yanked into a particularly horrific nightmare and can no longer see or steer. But of course that's not her only problem.

When Jane is in someone else's sphere of influence she loses her ability to move, it's hard to breathe, she's terrified, and perhaps worst of all, she knows exactly what's coming but is unable to do anything to stop it. Once the sensations begin, there's no turning back. (Anyone who has certain chronic medical conditions will be able to imagine this quite easily.) Jane's mother is an alcoholic and has the same dream over and over, a dream that would give even a stunt plane pilot vertigo. Since they live in a small space it's very difficult for Jane to avoid her mother. But it's at school that Jane encounters most of her serious problems.

If she isn't trapped in yet another naked in front of the class dream she's watching while someone fumbles the most important play in the most important football ever. Or she's in the classic falling or being chased dreams. Since high school starts at an ungodly early time of day and teens tend to be busy, busy people who don't get nearly enough sleep to support their rapidly changing bodies, there seems to always be someone falling asleep near her. High school can be a minefield even when you don't have any odd abilities but for Jane it's an exercise in insanity.

Naturally Jane also has some pretty serious problems with interpersonal relationships. How do you look someone in the face after you've seen their sex dreams starring your closest friend? How do you sympathize with someone's horrid recurring nightmare when you aren't supposed to know they’re having it? And how do you deal with dreams where you are suddenly a participant instead of just an observer, a participant in the most horrifying, bloody dreams of all? Jane must continually struggle to maintain any relationships without spilling her secret. Her favorite place to be is her job at a nursing home where she finds respite as the residents don't usually sleep well enough to trap her for any length of time. It's at her job that she starts to discover new things about her weird ability/curse when a dying patient repeatedly pulls her into the same dream and begs for her help.

For a slim volume there's an awful lot going on in this very fast paced story. The plot zips along, bouncing us jarringly from dream to dream, just as Jane's day is constantly disrupted by other people's sleep. One of the most important aspects of a YA novel is an authentic teen voice and Ms. McCann nails not just one, but all of them. Despite the fantastical nature of the plot these are realistic teens struggling with real problems; drugs, alcohol, alienation, poverty and the every day grind of getting through school with not enough time and too much pressure.

The second book in the series is called Fade, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet as my own teen snatched it away from me and is reading it himself. You can read an excerpt from Wake here: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Wake/Lisa-McMann/9781416953579/excerpt.

In other news, May 2nd is Free Comic Book Day. More information can be found here: http://shoestringliving.com/content/free-comic-book-day

If you're in the DC area you might want to visit either the Sheep and Wool Festival, which takes place on the first weekend in May every year in Maryland. http://www.sheepandwool.org/

Saturday is Embassy Open House in DC. Details to this and other events can be found here: http://www.culturaltourismdc.org/info-url_nocat2536/info-url_nocat_show....

One-Paragraph Review
This week's one-paragraph review is from Savannah who writes in about to say, "Harpers Island pretends to be a TV show but is sekretly a ten week slasher movie showing in one hour episodes. A murderer returns to an island to hack his way through a wedding, starting by tying someone to a propeller and chopping them up." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.