Author: Kelly Creagh
Book #: 1st of Trilogy
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: August 31st 2010
Date Read: August 22nd 2013
Rating: ★★★½ / out of 5
Isobel fell back, knocking into the table behind her. A shrieking torrent of jet feathers engulfed the light. His form loosened into violet smoke, and like a demon sucked into hell, he vanished into the floor.
Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.
Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.
As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.
His life depends on it.
(Synopsis taken from Goodreads)
For a 500+ page long book, I read through this fairly quickly. For reasons I am unaware of, this story caught my attention from the start and held it- even through my wavering faith in the last third- and then snapped my attention right back at the very end.
The characters weren't really anything special, for the most part. I wasn't liking Isobel (besides her name) or her friends at the beginning. Then.. Isobel started to change, slightly, and I slowly began to find her more agreeable. While I still didn't like the fact that she kept lying, sticking her nose in other people's personal belongings, making poor decisions and being good at not listening to life-saving instructions, she grew a backbone and stepped away from her comfort zone as she began to see the world.. differently and far more strange. Her character made a huge improvement by the end of the story and I can't wait to see how she develops through the sequel.
Isobel's old gang, on the other hand, still were pretty shallow the whole way through. Brad especially. It bothered me how Isobel's dad thought he was such a "good kid" when, in reality, he is far from it in my opinion. He had his nice moments, but most of the time he was an ass. I do sense some change in the group, too, though. Especially with Nikki in one of the last scenes we see of her. She's still not my favorite person in the world, but I could tell she was attempting to try. Gwen, hands down, the best. She is just the right kind of friend Isobel (and the story) needed. A quirky, sassy side-kick. And, she is totally a booknerd:
"What is this place? What are we doing here? Whoa, is that a first edition?"
To be honest though, I wasn't finding myself falling for Varen. I can see where and how Isobel did, and I have no problem with it. My heart, however, belongs to Reynolds (just don't ask, okay? it's complicated).
The story, though, wasn't as thrilling or "horror" filled as I was expecting. It was interesting, and the ending definitely left an open ending for things even crazier to come. However, I felt like the story might have been a bit too long, and there was too much focus on Isobel's personal life and less on all this weird stuff that is happening. There also wasn't a single moment that I was technically scared. The third part of this book really dragged for me, but the ending definitely became exciting very fast.
I definitely learned a lot more about Edgar Allen Poe than I probably ever expected to, and I enjoyed how his life and stories were intertwined into this one. But, after a friend on Goodreads brought it up, I agree that I really just wasn't seeing the connection between Poe and all that is happening with Varen and Isobel. I am hoping for more explanation in the sequel.
Overall, if it was just shortened a bit, this would have been an even better book than it was. Still, I liked it and it is a story I would recommend!
"You think you're different. You think you're all so different. You do everything to be different. But you're not. You are just like everybody else." - Isobel
Tonight, even if she failed the project, even if it was for the last time, she would get her spinning lights, her weightless suspension, her gasping crowd- tonight, she would fly.
"Jeez," said Isobel. "What, is your dad in the Mafia?"
"Actually, he's an orthodontist."
Isobel's gaze fixed directly with Lilith's "Didn't anyone ever tell you three's a crowd?"
Those black eyes widened in shock.
"It's too late," Isobel whispered, "for you to do anything."
"But to pine for those we have had and love and once held but will never clasp again," he continued, "it is a torture of an unbearable degree. It is the worst pain possible."
On My Goodreads: