Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Vault of Dreamers ~ Caragh M O'Brien (earc) review [@MacKidsBooks @CaraghMOBrien]

The Vault of Dreamers (#1)
Roaring Brook Press
September 16, 2014
432 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.
The Vault of Dreamers has a cover that is beyond attention capturing and a synopsis that sounds incredibly promising, but somehow the book left me wanting.

Fifteen-year-old Rosie Sinclair has left her old lif behind and is now studying at the prestigious Forge School. That also means she's one of the newest stars on the Forge Show. Rosie's new boarding school is not only a well known arts school, it's the stage for a top reality show. Every moment of the student's lives - save for bathroom stalls and showers - is filmed and broadcast live.

For Rosie, accepting the cameras seems a small price to pay for the education she'll be receiving. But, when she skips her mandated sleeping pill one night and finds that Forge - school and show - may not be as presented, those same cameras are now a hindrance. How can she ever find out what's happening while the students sleep if her every moment her every word and deed, is recorded for all to see?

The dilemma Rosie faces when thinking something nefarious is happening at her new school is very well done: should she stay or should she go? Between what we are shown of her life in Doli, the talks with her parents, even her own thoughts, and the great opportunity that Forge is, it is easy to understand why she feels torn.

The question of whether Rosie can be fully believed is also nicely presented. There are just enough hints, around the edges of the story, from other characters, that the Forge School and the Show are not as they appear. Yet, we also have reason to question Rosie and her assertions.

Yet, something never quite fell into place with The Vault of Dreamers. I liked Rosie's story, I liked her ambitions and the struggles she had with relationships, but it was hard to connect with her character. Something about her remained wooden, almost detached. Linus and Burnham were two of my favorite characters, Burnham, especially. His interactions with Rosie were engaging right from their first moment. I enjoyed how things developed between them - including the setbacks. His character's story was also interesting and I really wanted to know more.

Some of why I did not know how much to believe Rosie was that she seemed more disturbed, more outraged over what was happening than what she uncovered seemed to warrant. Yet, we could see that something was happening, but it did not feel like we knew enough - or that what we did know was enough -  to merit quite her level of unease.

Things do come together at the end, but it seemed almost too many answers then with too many questions during the rest of the book. Still, The Vault of Dreamers is such a readable book, you won't want to put it down. Even as I wanted something more to be there or to take place, I kept reading. Some to see how it all ended, but mostly because it's an intriguing, compelling story that pulls you in from the start.

I am looking forward to seeing what transpires in the sequel and I hope some of the secondary characters return, in one way or another.

(Also? For a school for creative people, I wish we had been able to see more creating happening. That didn't detract from the story, but it would have been a nice addition.)

thank you to the publisher for the egalley through NetGalley to review

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