Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dream Catcher Trilogy by Lisa McMann

Dream Catcher Trilogy by Lisa McMann is a series of books focusing on Janie, a seventeen year old girl who has the inexplicable ability to be sucked into other peoples dreams. Unfortunately, it's an ability she has very limited control over and it may have consequences she couldn't have predicted. As I read the entire series, composed of Wake, Fade and Gone, over a fairly short period of time I decided to compile my thoughts into one larger, spoiler-free (so I will be vague for the later books), review on the entire series.

After being intrigued although not entirely enraptured by Lisa McMann's latest novel, the standalone Cryer's Cross, I decided to try the audiobook version of her popular Dream Catcher Trilogy, beginning with the novel Wake. Immediately upon listening to Wake, I noticed how distinctive McMann's style of writing and voice was. Maybe it is simply more noticeable when you are listening to a book rather than viewing it visually, but McMann not only uses the unique third person present tense but also a rather lot of swearing. Maybe this makes her style authentic to teens, but at times it seemed to take away from the story, which would get intense only to be interrupted by a bunch of profanity.

In Wake the story takes quite awhile to get going, as McMann abruptly takes the reader to various important events in Janie's life, pauses momentarily, and then throws you into a new scene. It definitely took me awhile to adjust, as well as for the major storyline to begin. That said, it is a very short book, only about 200 pages, which means that when the main events do begin they are pretty face-paced and exciting. McMann does a nice job with the relationships in the book, I enjoyed the budding feelings between Cabel and Janie as well as Janie's friendship with her sometimes flaky next door neighbour Carrie, and they definitely felt like genuine teenagers with all the drama that sometimes entails. My biggest problem with the book, besides for not particularly loving the writing style, was the "twist" involving Cabel. It really felt like something out of a bad TV movie. After so much originality with the initial premise, I was a little disappointed to find out what was really going on.

Still, McMann and Janie's crazy ability had caught my attention enough that I decided to listen to the second book in the series, Fade. Although definitely young adult novels, there are a lot of mature themes as well as the regular swearing in the Dream Catcher books and this is particularly evident in Fade, where the main storyline focuses around finding a sexual predator. Despite the language and content, the writing style is actually fairly simplistic so that the books are easy, and quick, reading for the age level.

Unfortunately, I found the plot for Fade to be even less believable than the main story in Wake. I realize this is a series about a girl with a supernatural ability, but McMann has a talent for crafting realistic teenagers only to put them in totally unrealistic situations, ones that have nothing to do with the paranormal and everything to do with an unbelievable amount of responsibility being placed on them by adults. It didn't help that by this point the audio versions, despite an enjoyable reader, were really getting on my nerves because listening to present tense third person writing for several hours in a row is just not that enjoyable. I picked up this series having heard so many incredible things about the books, but by the halfway mark of the trilogy I was seriously doubting whether it was one I would end up finishing.

What made me decide to pick up the final book in the Dream Catcher Trilogy- in print, not audio, thank you very much- was that in contrast to the first two books, Gone isn't about Janie using her powers to solve crime but rather her family life and the choices her ability forces her to make. I also hoped that picking up a hard copy of the final book might change my feelings about the writing style.

Although I found all the background knowledge you gain about what life is like for a Dream Catcher really interesting, I did think that the story moved pretty slowly in comparison to the other books, probably because there wasn't really that thriller or mystery component in Gone. Also, this is a small and personal annoyance, but in the book Janie makes the assumption that somebody is Jewish just because of their last name (and confirms this because the person has bookmarked a website about Jewish holidays). It seemed slightly stereotypical to come to that conclusion so easily.

As a whole, I definitely enjoyed the insight into the Dream Catcher ability that McMann gave the reader in Gone, and I felt that the story fleshed out the characters back stories nicely so that the reader could better understand their actions, especially when it came to Janie's parents. I also found myself less distracted by the writing now that I wasn't listening to it being read out loud. Although it is the final book in the trilogy, I would definitely be interested to see how life progresses for Janie and how she manages to cope with the years to come. Ultimately the series ended on a high note, just not a very exciting one.

If you are interested in picking up Wake, Fade and Gone my first suggestion would be to skip the audiobooks on this one, I definitely think McMann's style of writing is better suited to the written word. Overall, Dream Catcher Trilogy wasn't my favourite series but the books were quick and mainly exciting reads based around a unique ability and authentic teenage characters.

Release Date: March 4th, 2008               Pages: 210
Source: Audiobook                                 Buy the Book
Release Date: February 10th, 2009         Pages: 248
Source: Audiobook                                 Buy the Book
Release Date: February 9th, 2010           Pages: 214
Source: Ebook                                        Buy the Book

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