Warning: Spoilers!

Published in 2000, this novel by Sarah Dessen tells the story of Caitlin O’Koren, a high schooler who starts our her junior year distraught over her older sister Cass’ sudden departure. She subsequently falls into a relationship with an intelligent yet abusive guy named Rogerson Biscoe.

Although the plot has some of the tones and clichés of Dessen’s novels, it does deal with a serious subject matter: an abusive relationship. Caitlin lets Rogerson take control of her and her life through his abuse: a problem that happens everyday all over the world.

I liked how Dessen wrote the underlying conflict as dealing with a sibling leaving, as opposed to a parent’s divorce, death or departure, themes  present in her other novels. It gave the story a different kind of perspective and flavor and offers readers another way to relate.

Caitlin is a solid character, trying hard to cope with her sister’s departure by getting involved with Rogerson. However, I felt their relationship was a big unrealistic at times. For example, it only takes about one night for Caitlin to become enamored with Rogerson. Although I could understand her vulnerable state, I just found it hard to believe that it was that instantaneous.

I also felt that there were too many times that Caitlin ran into chances to reveal her secret to others, causing the story to drag on a little and become a little predictable.

The story also explores the themes about the pressure of expectations parents usually have for their children, a reason why Cass chooses to leave. “Dreamland” refers to Caitlin’s dreams, where she hopes to see and remember memories of Cass during her absence. She also keeps a dream journal where she writes down her dream.

While Dreamland contains the typical unusual-names and girl-meets-boy clichés of Dessen’s novels, it diverse conflict does make it a solid story worth reading.