Dreams of falling are a common enough occurrence, but for Chloe Hawthorn, the experience is far more vivid than the physical sensation upon waking: for years, her dream self has fallen from skyscrapers, planes, and the like. With her move to New York City, however, these imaginings take a decidedly strange twist as she finds herself befriending another lost soul as she sleeps. What follows is a quest, borne of teenage love, to discover what happened to Shane and, ultimately, to save him.
When I first picked up this story, I was expecting something along the lines of your standard chicklit: a happy love story, with a generous helping of hilarity thrown in for good measure. To my surprise, this story is actually quite weighty, addressing issues such as abandonment, growing pains, and drug use. Though the protagonist is a teenage girl, the content pushes the book from young adult into adult fiction, at least in my mind. For the first half of the novel, I found both Chloe's and Shane's struggles to be believable, their behavior something I might expect from someone in such circumstances. Her father's sorrow as a widower, though barely touched upon, is still palpable, but he fades towards the latter half of the book.
The most intriguing character by far is Sid, the ostensible antagonist whose sanity is as questionable as the nutritional value of microwavable meals. The warped logic that he utilizes makes him far more interesting than a deliberately malignant force would have been; the fact of the matter is that he thinks he's doing something heroic and grand when he's actually destroying innocent lives and facilitating poor decision-making. The man is a pitiable villain, though a villain all the same.
Truth be told, this book would have earned considerably higher than a 3.5 based on the first half of the book. Shane's journal entries were reasonably profound, the plot fairly fascinating and the pacing excellent. The second half of the novel, however, began to drag. It felt like Shane was trying too hard to be deep, and there was a visible shift in Chloe's personality that I found difficult to reconcile. Perhaps part of the difficulty that I experienced was related to the details of the Dreamtime, which grew to be confusing in its New Age philosophy. It was integral to the plot, but at the same time, it made my mind weary and drew me away from my emotional connection to the main characters.
In writing this review, I confess that I'm doing my best not to impose my own morality on a fictional tale. Even so, I will admit that I was bothered by Chloe's means of rescuing Shane, particularly when one of her final acts carelessly endangered several addicts who had nothing to do with the situation at hand. The deliberate drug abuse, and the complete lack of any real consequences (on Chloe's part), makes me hesitate to recommend this book to someone who hasn't already formed his or her own opinion of the matter; that is, I would hardly recommend it to tweens and teens.
Dreamwalk is a heavier kind of love story, one that stretches the mind and raises some metaphysical questions. It is the thinking reader's romance.
(Review copy provided by the author)