Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it's the world that's crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she'll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? Her decision may have fatal consequences.
Brian James calls Life is But a Dream "the most intense book I've written. Bringing this unique character to life and seeing the world through her eyes, with all its beauty and confusion, was an immense challenge that I hope is just as rewarding to read as it was to write." Intense--yes. Unforgettable--definitely.
A far cry from Zombie Blondes, the other Brian James novel I read oh so many years ago, but in a great way, because I'm having trouble finding things I don't like about Life is But a Dream.
Actually, that's not quite true. There are a few things I dislike about Life is But a Dream, but not because they're poorly written or irrelevant, but because they fill me with rage. Alec, the boy Sabrina meets at the Wellness Center, is a prime example. The false ideas he places in Sabrina's head about her doctors' intentions and the actions he compels her to take are just so utterly wrong and cruel because of their consequences that I was never happy when he showed up. However, despite the anger he invoked in me, there is something undeniably fascinating about the way he operates. He's has a sense of awareness the rest of his peers don't that the ideas he brings forth always give Sabrina a new perspective and take the book in a new direction.
Other aspects of this book I tend to love more than I love-hate, namely Sabrina. Her struggle with schizophrenia is heartbreaking because of its intensity, especially as Alec begins planting the wrong ideas in her head and flashbacks of her past reveal the harsh treatment her former peers gave her. However, I'm glad this book does not solely emphasize the ugly parts of her illness. There's a lot of beauty in the way Sabrina views the world too-- her descriptions of the colors and shapes she sees in things that no one else notices create such beautiful images that it's easy to see why she's having trouble wanting them to go away. And, because they're so lovely, it's all the more emotional to realize that the harsh aspects of her illness are slowly but surely blotting them out.
Life is a But a Dream is an excellent balance of beauty and heartache, and I loved every minute of it.
Book details: Feiwel and Friends/Hardcover/$17.99
Source: sent by publisher for review