Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Books – Dare to Dream, by Carys Jones

Carys Jones’s Dare to Dream is a young adult novel released earlier this year. Maggie Trafford, an ordinary British schoolgirl, starts having nightmares. She dreams of Armageddon, of the end of the world, and as Stone Henge begins to fall Maggie becomes convinced that her dreams are premonitions. No one but her best friend Dawn believes her – and so, when her nightmares come true, Maggie, Dawn and their classmate Andy are left seemingly alone in the face of the apocalypse.

The premise of the book is strong. This is the first in a series and it sets up an intriguing world and situation. Maggie’s dreams and the role of Stone Henge add new dimensions to a standard apocalyptic story. The narrative viewpoint is well used; Maggie is without a doubt the central character, but we do see through the eyes of others quite a lot, which I enjoyed. In Part II it was interesting to get not just Maggie’s, but also Dawn and Andy’s thoughts on their situation.

Carys Jones has a great way of capturing characters in a short space of time. For example, perhaps my favourite sentence in the entire book, was this mostly irrelevant but beautiful gem: ‘Professor Donald Owen was currently on his fourth wife, but he was always on the lookout for his fifth.’ Maggie’s character is mostly well created. I might have liked her to doubt the truth of her dreams for a little longer, but her personality, her strength and her relationship with her family add to her depth. One thing that especially impressed me about the book is the way in which the characters change in Part II. I like that Andy isn’t always that nice to the others, because it’s believable; people are not going to be tactful or polite in awful situations. My favourite character is probably Dawn; I like that she seems so much stronger and more stable than Maggie in Part I but, when the world changes, she becomes much more childlike and less confident. This to me made her real.

The main criticism I have of this book is one of pace. To me Part I felt too slow, while Part II a little too fast. The focus of the book is really Part II, the end of the world, the journey taken by Maggie, Dawn and Andy; it’s this section which to me feels like the real plot. I feel like the weighting of the book is a little off; had Part I taken up a third of the book, and Part II the majority, I would have been more gripped by the plot sooner. I enjoyed a lot of Part I, but it sometimes felt too much like backstory. The first half of the book focuses on Maggie’s difficult home life. With the exception of her nightmares, if you take the plot of the first half of the book alone, it’s a story about an ordinary girl trying to find her father. This adds to Maggie’s character development, but it didn’t seem all that significant to the actual focus of the book; when it came to the actual Armageddon, most of the plotlines from Part I fall away, making the first half of the book seem irrelevant. However, this is a very tentative criticism because this is the first in a trilogy. Part I of Dare to Dream may have great significance in the rest of the series, which would change the situation entirely.

For example, it’s heavily implied by the end of Dare to Dream that Maggie’s parents, brothers and sisters are all dead. If this is the case, I feel like a lot less time could have been spent on them in the book. Her mother’s alcoholism and her father’s disappearance are to me given too much weight if these characters are no longer part of the story except in Maggie’s memory. However, if they are in fact alive, I understand the relevance of Part I a lot more. I was certainly expecting Maggie’s father to play a greater role in the story, and have high hopes of his appearing in the rest of the trilogy.
At times, I did find some of the writing a bit over-stated. There were several times where I thought scenes or moments could have been explained a little less or left to stand on their own for a more powerful effect. This is one of the reasons why I’d probably recommend it for the younger half of young adult readers. It’s been marketed as YA but I think it probably falls in the lower age range of YA; I imagine it would be enjoyed most by those under fifteen.

However, even though I’m not the ideal target audience, I did enjoy Dare to Dream. The premise is well executed and second half of the book especially is an engaging read. I also really like the ending, in that hints at the next book. I’m curious to discover the fate of these characters and their world, so I’ll be looking out for the rest of the series.

Greatest strength: The set-up, and the character development over the book.

Greatest weakness: As I say, I think the first half could have been a little better paced.

Let’s finish on a quote: ‘She awoke, shaking in the darkness of her cramped lounge and trapped in the haze where dreams and reality blurred.’

Next week: Sex and Stravinsky, by Barbara Trapido

On a side note, I now also have a Booktube channel on Youtube, where you can watch me ramble about books to my hearts content, and hopefully to yours:

More Young Adult Reviews: 



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