by Caragh O'Brien
To be published by Roaring Brook Press
on September 16, 2014
Source: ARC sent by publisher for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.My take: If Inception and Big Brother got together and had a bookish baby, it would be Vault of Dreamers. Though I didn't love everything about this book, it definitely made me think, and that's always a good thing.
At first I really wasn't sure about the whole Forge Show/reality TV aspect of this book. At first, it just seemed to exist to reveal a lot of things that are obvious to anyone who has ever watched reality TV. As one of the characters refers to an event"back in 2045," I'd guess this book takes place at least 40-50 years in the future and I'd kind of hoped that by then, there wouldn't be reality TV, and, that if reality TV still existed, it would be beyond obvious that if you want to stay on a reality show that involves elimination, you need a) a tragic backstory or b) a showmance or c) some kind of trumped-up, pumped up drama or preferably d) all of the above.
When the whole "induced sleep" element came into play, having all the cameras around made more sense. Many of the dream books I've read have had the problem of flatness. Watching someone sleep in a book isn't all that interesting, and someone narrating a dream is a whole lot of telling, not showing. But combining the dreams and the cameras gave the book a cool, other-worldly-yet-paranoid kind of vibe that I really liked.
The things I liked less about the book are a bit spoilery, so I'll tread very carefully and then put some of my thoughts under spoiler protection. First, the "ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding" turned out to be more confusing and less exciting (at least if I understood it correctly) than I'd hoped. While the sci-fi stuff made sense to me, it didn't seem as sinister as I'd been expecting. And there was one aspect of the ending that seemed forced and not very believable. The romance was a bit "eh" for me too. I'm really okay with no romance -- I like that better than an "eh" romance. But overall, I liked the writing and the overall feel, so I definitely think I'll check out the next installment.
Maybe there is more to it than this installment revealed, but I was not so appalled that the dean was mining dreams to help kids with brain injuries. I mean, of course he shouldn't invade people's minds without consent, but if I could help people with TBIs by letting someone put electrodes on my head and mine my dreams, I'd totally agree to do it. I mean, the cool thing is that the nanotechnology the book describes is actually something that could exist in the next few decades. The guardianship thing was a bit ridiculous. It might have worked better for me if Rosie had found out that her parents had signed her rights away when she went on the show, for money or something. The false drama of it didn't really work for me.