Look! A review… finally!
I know, I know, I have been far too quiet lately. But, it’s been one heck of an adjustment with the new job and being on a computer almost all day that I’ve had a hard time sitting down in the evenings to write reviews. So today I am delighted to present my 5 star review The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien, and absolutely gripping YA read!
Title: The Vault of Dreamers
Author: Caragh M. O’Brien
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Genre: Fiction, YA, Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, YA Romance
Themes: Family, Friendship, Boarding School, Reality TV, Medical Testing, Consent Romance
My Rating: 5/ 5
WELCOME TO THE PRESTIGIOUS Forge School of the Arts, where every waking moment of the students’ lives is televised. For twelve hours a day, every class, conversation, and gesture is broadcast to millions of viewers. And for twelve hours each night, the students undergo an induced sleep, proven to maximize creativity.
Rosie Sinclair has staked all her dreams of becoming a filmmaker on succeeding at Forge. But when she skips her sleeping pill one night, she discovers an insidious world behind the cameras. As she navigates the Forge landscape of art and manipulation by day, Rosie finds it increasingly difficult to trust either her instincts or her mind. The only thing she knows for certain is that she must unearth the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding.
From the author of the Birthmarked Trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when the dreams you follow are no longer your own.
Where do I begin with this book? Normally I would say something like ‘this might listed as YA, but can be enjoyed by all.’ And while that might be true, straight up this is some seriously kick ass YA lit! I shouldn’t have expected anything less from Caragh M. O’Brien as I adored the Birthmarked trilogy, but with The Vault of Dreamers I was completely blown away.
The whole concept of high school as reality TV, 24 hour monitoring, advanced arts school had me hooked from the blurb. In all honesty, it sounded exactly like the kind of school that I would have applied to as teen and I simply couldn’t stay away. The execution of the concept far exceeded my expectations, so much so that I have already gone out and purchased the other two books in the trilogy! But more than anything, I loved how O’Brien balanced relevant and contemporary issues with page-gripping fiction. These included the high suicide rates of contestants, discussions on bodily autonomy, consent, poverty, abuse and so much more.
The Round of 50 cuts was something that I found to be particularly brutal. I couldn’t imagine having my entire future determined by public opinion and yet it seems to be something we crave as a society. It hurt to see Rosie’s good intentions used as ammunition against her, but it hurt even more to see the impact that constant public scrutiny can have on a person. And while the majority of teens won’t be on nationally televised reality shows, the constant pressure of social media combined with the drama of high school is sure to be relatable. Huge props to O’Brien for tackling the persistent issues of high suicide rates amongst former reality TV contestants, I can only hope that works like this get people thinking, or better yet, get them talking.
I really appreciated how the romantic aspects of this story were handled as well. The fire was there, but in an innocent almost toned down way that left the focus squarely on the interpersonal dramas and the psychological warfare being waged. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the whole Rosie/ Linus storyline, but it was subtle enough and healthy enough of a relationship that it didn’t inspire any rage (which is rare for me, as I normally hate romance in teens novels for many, unrealistic reasons).
And the mind games! SO WELL WRITTEN. Take note my friends, I don’t use all caps often. But the way in which everything presented felt so real, and the gaslighting got me so wrapped up that I too began questioning whether or not Rosie was dreaming for some of the more fantastical elements and whether or not all of her breakthrough ideas were truly her own. But in the face of all it, I adored how Rosie stayed strong and convicted in spite of the challenges thrown her way.
I got lost in the sense of fear, of game play, and of the all-encompassing politics as the story progressed. And even though Rosie gathered herself quite the team to help her through, she is a fierce female character who plays one hell of a game. I appreciated her strength and tenacity, her dedication to her family, and her unwavering commitment to finding the truth even when it looked like she had been completely beat.
My only complaint was that I felt there were some threads of the story left that weren’t wrapped up at the end, like whatever happened to Linus and Burnham. But this was just the first book in a trilogy and there had to be something juicy enough to pull you along into the next instalment right? And let’s not forget what happened to Rosie! I’ll avoid spoilers here, but if you’ve read the blurbs for the other books chances are good you have an idea. But that final chapter! Oh man, I just had to know where she went and how.
Altogether this was a fun, engaging, and well written story that is sure to grip the attention. Sure, Rosie’s a little on the teenaged girl mindset, but her behaviour is right in line with her age and situation. Honestly, I liked that she wasn’t mature beyond her years but know that some might find her annoying. Regardless, this is one of my favourite reads of the year because it had it all – drama, suspense, romance, and intrigue. Would I recommend it? Oh hells yes!
Now pardon me while I disappear again to read the rest of the series.