Sarah Dessen Week Guest Post: Ashley

May 11, 2011 Uncategorized 7

 Today the fabulous Ashley from Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing has stopped by to join in on the Sarah Dessen love! Thanks for the great review!

[Ashley+eyes+book.jpg]Hey everyone! It’s Ashley from Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing! I’m really excited to be taking part in Sarah Dessen week! I read my first (and second) Dessen book last year and enjoyed them. I was looking for an excuse to read more, so when these lovely ladies started talking about a Sarah Dessen week, I figured it was meant to be! :)

Dreamland Dreamland was my third Dessen novel and it’s completely different from any other Dessen books I’ve read, or heard of. Most of what I had heard about a Dessen novel before (and after) I started reading them was how great her boys are. But in Dreamland, Rogerson is NOT a great guy. He doesn’t even start out as a great guy. I was especially interested to read this book, because I wanted to see how Dessen, a writer most known for her great romantic interests would handle an abuser. 
Caitlin has lived her whole life content to be in the shadow of her beloved and perfect older sister Cass. Caitlin isn’t a bad kid, doesn’t act out or resent her sister, but she has always been overshadowed by her sister and her accomplishments, and her mother is completely devoted to Cass’s life and making sure that Cass stays on top of everything. She’s the epitome of that super involved PTA mom. Caitlin is happy to live in the background, but then Cass runs away. She leaves a short note and walks out. This changes everything. 
No one in the family knows how to handle the disappearance of Cass. They all react to the loss differently, and it tears at the internal fabric of each member of the family. Caitlin begins to change the way she thinks about Cass, and the way she views life. She wants to make a change, do something that will internally mark pre- and post- Cass’s disappearance. Enter Rogerson. He’s mysterious, gorgeous and someone the old Caitlin would never have looked twice at. (Okay, maybe she would have looked, but it would have ended there). But this new Caitlin wants something different, and so she leaves her safe, predictable world behind and leaves with Rogerson. 
The thing I found interesting about the relationship between Rogerson and Caitlin, is that Rogerson was never the ‘good guy’ or even the ‘nice guy’. He was the hot/mysterious/aloof/dangerous guy, and I think Caitlin knew the whole time that he was bad news. But she needed something different to take her mind off the mess at home. So, she went with it. Caitlin escapes into the world of Rogerson because she doesn’t have to think about the problems at home when she’s with him. She is just Caitlin and nothing outside matters when she’s with him. As a reader, I was never under Rogerson’s spell, and I almost didn’t understand why Caitlin was. Likewise, I didn’t really believe Caitlin would have sat through it the first time he hit her. It felt a little too… sterile. But then again, Caitlin was in shock and probably more than a little numb, so maybe it was intentional.

However, after both the ‘firsts’ I had no trouble believing the story as I watched Caitlin spiral down harder and faster and Rogerson got more unpredictable, more violent and more unstable. Caitlin lived in constant fear, just waiting for the next bout of anger, the next uncontrollable jealous rage. It gets to the point that Caitlin no longer feels safe anywhere, and there is no one for her to talk to or confide in. Everyone is so caught up in their own lives that no one notices as Caitlin withdraws more and more into her self and her relationship with Rogerson. That horrified and terrified me. How can you be so caught up in your own lives that you fail to notice the damage this new boyfriend is doing to your daughter?!

None of her friends recognized the warnings signs either, or if they did, they completely ignored them, let them slide, pretended that they weren’t really there. Looking at teen dating violence statistics, there are some studies that show over 50% of teens do not recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Over 50%! How can they protect themselves, or those they care about if they don’t know what to look for?! That is why I think books like this are so incredibly important for teens and young adults. Read, be informed, and seek help!!


Dreamland is a very different Dessen than I’m used to, but it is definitely one that needs to be read. Caitlin’s story needs to be heard, it needs to be remembered.

7 Responses to “Sarah Dessen Week Guest Post: Ashley”

  1. Alex (A Girl, Books, OtherThings)

    You made a great analysis of this all. And I’m really sad about those statistics – though I’ve never actually thought of this book as an “issue” book, I do think it shines a light on this heavy topic.

    I was thinking what you said about not entirely buying the firsts, and the scene I had most trouble buying was the one between Rogerson and his dad, I don’t know why, kind of felt like it was scripted.

  2. Deb

    Thank you for sharing this. I _will_ read Dreamland. I’m going to need a S/D book shelve in my house and that is a good thing!!

  3. I Eat Words

    Yay Ashley! She’s such an awesome blogger :) It’s been years since I’ve read this book, but I think she really captured it all in her review! It’s very, very deep. And very different from the fun beach-loving boy-crazy summers Dessen usually writes about.

    Awesome post! And GREAT work with Dessen week. I’m having TONS of fun. :)

    -Farrah

  4. Shannon the BookStalker

    Just linked up my review of Along for the Ride. Tomorrow I’m hoping to do a post featuring the top 3 Sarah Dessen books I want to read. Thanks for co-hosting this event Heidi!

  5. Katelyn

    Aww it’s Ashley! I loved this review. I am beginning to think that today was a Dreamland review day, and I missed the memo! Nevertheless, I find it absolutely fabulous that Ashley put actual stats in a review. It is so like her and I adore it. 50% is an insane, scary amount of people who do not know the warning signs. I am thankful for authors that take a big risk in creating books like this. Again, great review and great guest post!
    -Katelyn

  6. Midnyte Reader

    Hi Dark Ash! This sounds like a very powerful, disturbing and moving book. I don’t know if I would read it, but I can see the importance of these topics in literature.

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