One of my pet peeves is when authors dumb down books for YA audiences because they mistakenly believe that teens don’t care about content, style, or characterizations.
Jen Estes is not one of those authors. In fact, she could teach a few lessons to those who write for adults. Some of her strengths include witty dialogue and characters who are well defined. Despite the fantasy quality inherit in a plot dealing with a future full of evil Jumlins who either eat or enslave humans, the actions of the teenagers and their parents ring true.
It’s easy to like our heroine, dreamwalker Ashling Michelle Campbell. Ash, a fifteen year old sophomore at Billings High School, has a difficult task. Somehow she must change the present to prevent the future demons from rearing their ugly heads and taking over the town. Her only clues to guide the process are her nightly dreams which progressively reveal the secrets of the future fifteen years to the reader. And once Ash thinks she has a handle on her mission, the situation totally reverses where present is past and future is the new reality. The only one she can confide in is her best friend Tate Witco who helps her deal with the universal plight of a teenager in high school as well as the repercussions of her nightmares. Add in some other players, such as nasty foster sister Nadette, beautiful popular girl Skyler Smith and her wealthy conniving father, a perceptive somnologist Dr Robert Deitz, future hunky boyfriend Nelson Cooper, a loving concerned mom, and an “adopted” caring Aunt Lavaughn and you have the cast of hometown life in Billings, Montana.
Somehow Jen uses her imagery to create well rounded individuals who seen familiar. People you would actually like to meet. The reader roots for Ash to solve her dilemma so that their world isn’t destroyed by evil. They also want to comfort the teen when her astral projecting doesn’t always achieve the planned results.
My main criticism is that the destruction and decay of Billings seems to be more extensive than the timeline indicates, but perhaps it is explained better in the upcoming books in the Dreamwalker Diaries Series. Of course, I’m suspending belief in reality by accepting the entire premise of this fantasy, but for some reason the story is presented in such a way that it all makes sense. Well, it almost makes sense. My new problem is whether to consider this Science Fiction, a dystopian novel, or a bizarre “Coming of Age” story. This book is one of those that any age can enjoy (unless you are prone to nightmares).
As an aside – while thirty might seem old to a teenage audience, don’t make Ash’s physical agility at that age the equivalent of a fifty year old. Remember, thirty is the new twenty.
So Jen, get a wiggle on and finish Diary #2 so I can find out what happens next. Four stars.
A thank you to Netgalley and Curiosity Quill for providing an ARC in exchange of an honest review.