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on June 10, 2004
Caitlin O'Koren already must deal with the fact that her sister, Cass, who is supposed to be at Yale soon, has run away. And, for all she and her parents know, Cass may never return. To Caitlin's shock, she is a staff member on the Lamont Whipper show, a fictional Jerry Springer type talk show.
Enter Rogerson Biscoe, a dreadlocked hunk who takes Caitlin's mind off of her family's ordeal. He is able to perfectly fill the void Cass left behind. His lifestyle of smoking and partying is wild, something new and exciting to Caitlin. That's why when he pulls her into his world, she doesn't hesitate to come along for the ride. As she gets deeper and deeper into the relationship, she comes to understand Rogerson is bruised and badly broken, both in the literal and figurative sense. He has a father who hits him and to heal his own pain, he begins taking his anger out on Caitlin.
Soon, Caitlin changes, switching gears altogether. She used to be a B student, a cheerleader, and a loyal best friend to Rina, who is fiercely loyal in return. Now, she incessantly blows Rina off when she tries to make plans, she's quit cheerleading, she's become withdrawn, she's smoking weed, taking Rogerson's beatings, and plummeting further and further into the abyss. Those who try to reach out, friends, family, and worried peers, have no success. It's as if there is a wall between Caitlin and the rest of the world. Really, there is. That wall is her dreamland.
Dessen's best novel to date is realistic and totally believable. When people question why victims choose not to escape their relationship abuse, they don't always understand things can't be so easy. Dessen also demonstrates the driving forces in one's life that can cause a person to lose their grip on reality, as well as their sense of security. DREAMLAND is more than a mere YA novel. It's about a horrid thing that actually happens to thousands of teenage girls today.
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on September 25, 2006
Dessen's "Dreamland" is probably one of the most accurate portrayals of dating violence that I've read in fiction. People often wonder why victims don't leave their abusers, and how they could continue to love the person who hurts them. Dessen vividly portrays how Caitlin understands that what Rodgerson is doing is wrong, but she is afraid to leave. Her self-esteem is so fragile that she assumes everyone will blame her for getting into such a dangerous situation.

One of the strengths of this book is Dessen's shaping of Rodgerson. We find that he has led an affluent life and has a brilliant mind, but he has been a victim of his father's abuse. Dessen makes him human and allows us to have sympathy for him before he begins abusing Caitlin. Unfortunately, once he turns on Caitlin, Rodgerson's voice in the story becomes almost absent. He has very little dialogue, and we hear about most of his and Caitlin's interactions (positive and negative) only through Caitlin's recollections. I would have loved to have seen more dialogue from Rodgerson throughout the book.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book for young adults and even adults. I'm 37 and found I couldn't put this book down.
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on January 10, 2001
Several weeks ago I stayed up most of the night to finish reading this haunting story. I've read some good books since then, but Dreamland has stayed with me. It's a strangely gripping mixture of the poetic and the realistic. I couldn't help but believe this is how life is for many teens. For one thing, the author caught the intelligence and frivolity of being a teen so vividly. One moment the narrator is making a breathtaking observation about life, and the next she's ignoring danger signs practically screaming at her. The story somehow maintains a feeling of hope even as it deals with drugs and self-destructive choices. And yes, this did remind me a bit of last year's TV show FREAKS & GEEKS, since the main character is a girl who changes her choice of friends and style of life. However, Freaks and Geeks (pretty good show that is was) didn't pack near the punch of this book. I rank this book five stars because it's an good book and it's one that stays with you. It will probably stay in your mind long after you're finished reading.
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on December 11, 2000
The book Dreamland by Sarah Desson is an excellent story about a young girl's life and the decisions she is faced with. It all starts on Catlin's 16th birthday, when she wakes up to find a unexpected note on the kitchen counter, that her older sister, Cassandra, has ran away to with her new boyfriend, Adam. Catlin's parents, who were very invovled in Cassandra's life, are devastated by this mishap. Catlin is now going insane, she doesn't even feel like a part of the family anymore. Her friends convince her to join the cheerleading squad, which wasn't easy for her. Next, she finds herself with a new boyfriend, totally opposite from her friends. He is out of school, a big partier and worst of all, a drug dealer. This however does not stop Catlin. Soon, she starts to drift way from her friends and is with him everyday. Her parents start noticing bruises all over Catlin and black eyes appearing out of nowhere. This is one book, you will not be able to put down, it keeps you wanting to know more and more "Is Cassandra going to call home?" or " Is Catlin's boyfriend really the sweet guy she thinks he is?" I would recommend this book to anyone. Especially teenagers, these are real life situations that can happen to an everyday teen.
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on September 15, 2011
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen is a story that follows Caitlin after her sister Cass ran away on Caitlin's sixteenth birthday. Caitlin's world seems to spiral away until she meets Rogerson, a strange guy with awesome hair and whom Caitlin feels at ease with, someone she can be anyone with. She's happy and in love and everything seems perfect, until Rogerson starts to beat her.

I'll be honest, I haven't read anything from Sarah Dessen and didn't think I would like any of her books. All I hear is "Sarah Dessen" this, "Sarah Dessen" that, and because she's that "well known", I didn't think I would like her books. But, Amazon had this sale and this book was pretty cheap, and I ended up getting this book pretty much free.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. I thought it was beautifully written and it's easy to see how Sarah is a good writer and has a lot of followers. But there were issues I didn't like about this book.

For the first half, it's all about how Cass leaves and Caitlin doesn't know what to do, that she joins cheerleading but still feels out of it, that she loves Rogerson, that she doesn't know exactly what he does, and that she smokes. Then, at the halfway point, we get the actual story where Caitlin is beaten by Rogerson. It's not a long story at all, so it could have been a lot longer and more detailed. But it's not until the halfway point that a major event happens, one which is described in the summary? The first half almost seems like... a waste because there isn't much that happens. At least enough to affect the plot.

Caitlin starts smoking cigarettes and pot and there's also abuse as well mentioned in this story. I do see a lot of comments saying that it's "darker" and not "appropriate" for younger children. But the reality is, it's not that bad and there are worse things out there. You let your kids watch the news? Watch movies? Watch tv? Go on the internet? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that what's in here isn't as bad as elsewhere.

However, the issue I have with all of that is that it doesn't seem like Caitlin really is doing any of it. What I mean is that it doesn't seem like there's any side affects. Smoking pot doesn't do anything? No one notices the smoke smell of cigarettes and pot around her? No one notices any side affects from them? No one? And when Caitlin goes into rehab, there are no withdrawal symptoms that she faces or endures? Really? It just seems so... fake and unrealistic.

When Rogerson starts beating Caitlin, you feel it, almost. You can see why she doesn't want to leave him. I liked how Sarah explored the abusive relationship. That it was more detailed, more explained, how a person becomes attached to the abuser.

It also strikes me odd that no one notices or even suspects anything about Caitlin. I mean, I can see it to a degree, but to the severity that Sarah has it seems a bit implausible. As long as it was and as distant Caitlin was, there had to be someone that suspected something. But I guess everyone is wrapped up so much in their own problems, they don't notice anyone else's.

For the most part, I did enjoy this story. I thought it was a beautiful story that wasn't about something normal and everyday. It was different. I didn't like how things became resolved so quickly, how there was no side affects and it didn't even seem like she had been on drugs, how no one really noticed, or how it was too short and sometimes very dull. Overall, though, not bad. I'm not sure if I would recommend this book but it is a quick enough read. Not entertaining enough to keep me reading straight through, but short enough for a quick read. For my first Sarah book, it's not bad, but I don't think it's enough to really be all Sarah Dessen crazy.
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on February 22, 2004
I liked but didn't love this book. It kind of reminds me of a typical TV movie about teen relationships, drugs, and abuse...it wouldn't surprise me if it became one. Personally, I thought that the characters were under-developed, except for Caitlin. (Obviously, she's the most important.) I had no real sense of who anyone else was. Some of the moments of anticipated violence/abuse were powerful and scary. More should have been said about Caitlin's feelings for Rogerson so her actions could be better understood. Even she was a bit of a mystery.
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on April 4, 2006
To simply say, "DREAMLAND is the story of a girl who has an abusive boyfriend," would be selling the book - and the girl - short.

Though the physical abuse is a large portion of Sarah Dessen's darkest story, that is not all. DREAMLAND is also about the dissolution of a family.

When the older daughter leaves, things start to change for little sis. She survives a forgotten birthday (think the Lifetime movie version of Sixteen Candles) and retreats into herself. When she starts dating the bad boy, who is involved in drugs, she hides the bruises. At the risk of sounding corny, it is a physical manifestion of her inner pain.

This is a heavy story. Due to the subject matter and the descriptions of alcohol, drugs, and abuse, it is not appropriate for the grade school crowd. Those who want to introduce a younger teen to Dessen's novels would be wise to start with a lighter story, like That Summer or Keeping the Moon, and wait for Dreamland until high school. Meanwhile, readers who have been through experiences similar to Caitlin's might find solace in these pages.

Overall, a good book which lends itself well to book discussion groups - and hopefully helps someone out there begin her own healing process.
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on July 10, 2006
Turning 16 year old Caitlin O'Koren wakes up on her 16th birthday to discover that her sister has run away with her boyfriend Adam. Caitlin isn't as sad as her mother who is sobbing in the kitchen reading Cass's note. Cass is 18 so she is not a minor anymore. She can go to China if she wants but Caitlin finds her gift which is a Dream Journal that her sister ,Cass, left. Caitlin writes in it.

Caitlin meets Rogerson for the first time at an "abandoned" Car wash and bumps into him. She is moved and quikly finds herself ditching her stupid cheerleading roll at school and getting into it with Rogerson. She starts to smoke pot (which Rogerson sells and is literally falling in love with him. With all this she finds a love for photography. She also spends so much time with Rogerson her grades drop and her sister missing just becomes a blur as caitlin gets bruised and beaten by him but she sticks through because she loves him. She feels shes invisivle and she can't talk to anyone in fear of "Full Contact". She feels she is sinking into the ocean, drowning. She wants to hit the bottom and become invisible so Rogerson doesn't hit her. When the police find out about all this Rogerson goes to Jail but Caitlin doesn't want anything except him. She screams his name and sobs for him. She wants him but can never have him again. She goes to Evergreen ,a recovery center. She lives there for the rest of the school year and soon her love for Rogerson fades. But everytime she thinks of him a huge hole in her heart is formed and she wants him all over again.

I ,personally, LOVED this book. I started crying when they took Rogerson away and I felt as if I was right there with Caitlin screaming his name wanting him to come back. If I could actually meet him, I would love him as Caitlin did. You really get into Caitlin's story and she is happy that she finally has one. Instead of always following her sisters roll being the second-place, also-ran, did-too. She did something her sister never did and is proud, not of being beaten or punched but because she loved Rogerson more than anything in the world at times and (so did I a little).
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on September 2, 2004
This book was a wonderful read that accurately depicts teenage love, and the consequences it brings. Caitlin has always lived in her older sister, Cass's, shadow. Cass was the super-daughter. She was good in every sport and every class. She was accepted to Yale. She was head of the student body. Caitlin was always standing behind Cass, trying to peek out, but not quite getting there. On the morning of Caitlin's birthday, they discover Cass has left. She has fallen in love over the summer, and decides to move to New York to be for her boyfriend, and work with him on The Lamont Whipper show (which is basically a Jerry Springer Type Show). Her parents are heartbroken; her father trying to deal with it in his calm, professional way, but her mother was just an emotional wreck. When Caitlin goes back to school, with rumors and hern ame buzzing through everyones mouth, she is determined to do everything her sister would not. She starts out by trying out for cheerleading, which she successfully nabs a spot on the squad. Her best friend, Rina, who is also a cheerleader, as well as gorgeous, pushes her constantly to go out with a boy named Mike Evans. But to Caitlin, Mike Evans was too plain. Too boring for her. One day, after a bad cheer in which she falls from the top of the period, her Rina, and another girl are at a gas station. Caitlin goes to get change when she spots him - Rogerson. She is taken away by him, and they exchange a few words, but Caitlin is pulled away by her friends, who are anxious to get to the party. When they get there, Mike Evans sits next to her the whole time. But, then, Rogerson walks in. Spending only a few moments there, he goes to leave, and Caitlin follows him. But, unlucky for her, Mike follows her. As Rogerson gets to the door, he sees her, and stops. Mike Evans runs after her, and he offers her his letterman jacket-- which means he is asking her out. But Rogerson cocks his head, and says "come on." And she goes. In the beginning, being with Rogerson is the greatest thing for Caitlin. It's so un-Cass like. She was forging her own path. And after watching Rogerson's father hit him, she feels even closer to him. However, the good never lasts long enough. As their relationship progresses, Rogerson starts to hit her. The first time it happens, she is in shock. Caitlin never thought he, her love, would do that to her. But he keeps doing it. Over and over and over. Caitlin doesn't want to think about it though. She wants to just think of the Rogerson she loves. The one who is sweet, kind, and tender. But the hitting gets worse, and her life takes a spiral. And although Caitlin wants to let go, she can't. Because how do you let go of the one you love?

This book is fantastic, and really gives you insight into what goes through a teens head as she deals with issues such as abuse and drugs. I highly reccomend it.
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on April 9, 2004
Of all the book's of Sarah's this is the one that made me cry more, there were parts were I was just crying so hard that I could barely read.
The story goes like this:
On the moring of Caitlin's sixteen birthday Cass, her "perfect" older sister, runs out with her boyfriend Adam, chosing New York over Yale and leaving Caitlin's family chrushed. Caitlin's father feels betrayed by his daugther, her mom barely realizes of anything anymore, and Caitlin is left alone to start her junior year with out her sister, with the sole support of Rina, her best friend, and Boo and Stuart, neighboors and best family friends.
Rina convinces Caitlin to try out for cheerleading, because that was one of the few things that Cass never did. Surprisingly and not really wanting to, she ends up being picked out for squad. After one of her games, Caitlin, Rina and another cheerleader stop in a carwash and there she meets Rogerson Briscoe, and things heat up with him.
Suddenly he is everywere, and Caitlin suddenly finds herself with a brilliant cool boyfriend.
Rogerson, however, has lots of long stories... and lots of dark secrets. Caitlin doesn't care, he is taking her places where Cass has never been. One day, Rogerson's dark secret comes out, when he hits Caitlin for the fisrt time. Not ready to leave him yet, she stays.
And the story goes on, Caitlin has fallen into a box, sealed with love and need, feeling trapt but lacking the will to scape, she hides the bruises and resumes to Dreamland... were things don't seem so bad.
All the characters are wonderful, Caitlin and Rogerson relationship well descrived, Boo and Stuart, Rina, Cass, Corina... I highly recomend this book.
It's goes beyond the hiting problem, i think you can identify yourself there because more than about domestic violence, is about finding yourself when there are no pointers showing the way.
One of my favorite parts is when Caitlin wonders what would she think if saw this photograph of this girl that sits in her boyfriends lap so easily and how happy both looked (the ones in the photo are her and Rogerson), she says that she would have think that her life was perfect, just like once she had believed Cass's life to be perfect, she says that she had learned it was too easy to just asume things
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