Andy wasn’t usually sure about much, but she was absolutely certain this was the weirdest day of her life as she stood stranded in the middle of a great white room with six strangers. Well, they were mostly strangers. She could have sworn she’d seen the guy with the green eyes before, and maybe that was why he kept staring at her.
When a man calling himself the Guardian appeared and said they had come to make their deepest dreams come true, they embark on an adventure none of them ever imagined, and the consequences of their actions would change them forever.
I was pulled in to John Dreamer by the gorgeous cover and the book’s description. I thought it sounded really unique and interesting, so I decided to give it a shot, and while there were some things I liked, there was a lot I didn’t like, too.
I really liked the premise of the story (though I couldn’t take the Guardian seriously), and I liked the concept of the “Great White Room” and the chairs showing aspects of each character’s personality. I also thought the last quarter of the book was pretty interesting – for some reason it stood out to me a lot more than the previous 3/4 of the book did. The narrator swap 3/4 of the way through the book really threw me for a loop, but I found I liked the narrator’s voice a lot better than Andy’s – it felt more distinct and real to me. I felt it slipped back into Andy’s voice a couple of times, but still found it to be a lot more engaging than her sections.
I really enjoyed the photography in the book and thought that for the most part it really added something to each chapter. It was really pretty and surreal and I think it fit the book’s tone and setting really well. The formatting was a bit awkward in my edition, but I think it would make a really gorgeous combination in a print edition.
There was some language that was really lyrical, beautiful, and engaging, and other parts that fell really flat for me. Toward the end of the book, it improved, though there were still some melodramatic-sounding lines that gave me pause.
The book introduces its seven characters quickly as subjects in the Guardian’s dream world, and unfortunately, all seven of them are introduced in the first 10%. While Roy, Matty, Linda, Olivia, and Marcus were all given pretty specific personality quirks that helped separate them from each other, I felt really overwhelmed that they were all introduced within a couple of pages of one another. Considering how the story plays out, I can see why this was done, but I still wished it had been executed a little differently.
I especially felt like we never really got to know Andy, and she’s the first-person narrator of the story, so I didn’t feel like that should have happened. I felt like I knew next to nothing about her for the grand majority of the book, other than her name and the fact that she liked John, and I didn’t even know WHY she liked John other than that he was good-looking, so that didn’t do much for me. Andy doesn’t really speak her mind or tell the reader (or anyone else) anything about herself, and seems to constantly avoid any situation that would actually develop her character. I felt like we knew the supporting characters better than we ever got to know Andy or John.
I also felt like these character had really toxic friendships, or at least had the bar set really low for what they’d describe as a “friend.” Andy keeps referring to the other characters as her friends, but I never really got the impression that they were, aside from her constantly using that word to describe her relationship with them.
One other issue I had, though this might not be a major problem for other readers, was partially caused by the setting of the Great White Room. As I mentioned, I liked the concept, but in practice, it didn’t really work for me. I had a hard time keeping track of where characters were in relation to each other and what they were doing, so I never really had a sense of place and very rarely had an idea of what was going on physically in those scenes. I would get confused because I would think that two characters were close together, or feel it was implied that they were, but then one of them would walk over to the other one, and I found stuff like that to be really disorienting.
I liked the book’s message and I think it’s an important one for a teen audience, but the main character development and execution left something to be desired.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars