Book Reviews

[review] Life is But a Dream – Brian James

Release Date: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 234
Format: Hardcover
Source: ARC received from publisher

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. 

Tell Me More: Perspective is a volatile and explosive part of being human. A slight change in the way an event is seen can mean the difference between life and death. History is written by the winners, and lamented by the defeated. But possibly the scariest thing about perspective is not knowing if you can trust your own.

Brian James pens the story of an artistic, ethereal girl named Sabrina and her struggles with seeing the world in the “right” way. As hard as it must already be to receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Sabrina is also a teenager, on the fence between childhood and adulthood. Learning how to believe in yourself is challenging enough without the added pressures of feeling like two or three different people. What is there left for you to believe in, anyway?

James’ writing is simply electric, pulsing with all the potential readers will find in Sabrina. Relating to her disillusionment and insecurities comes easily–we have all been in her shoes once or twice. The descriptions of what Sabrina sees on a daily basis are particularly captivating, and make her later decisions that much more poignant. Her relationship with her family also interested me, and I wish there had been more of it to fully flesh out the history behind her diagnosis.

Despite the brilliant characterization, the love story falls flat, and as I read, I wished it had just been relegated to a tiny subplot. I understood why James may have decided to have Alec play such a big role in Sabrina’s development, but there were times when it felt contrived. Much of the reason why has to do with the ending, which I don’t want to spoil for people who are considering picking this book up. It wasn’t an awful ending, but I do think that a bit more length and development would have given it more justification.

I am hesitant to say I enjoyed this book, because I don’t think that’s the right word for it. Rather, I was left in awe of what beautiful, committed writing can do to heighten an already emotional and unique story.

The Final Say: Life is But a Dream is a story for those who are coming to trust in themselves more than the world, and for those who want to find the strength to do it.

Be sure to visit Brian James at his website.

You can check out Life is But a Dream on Goodreads and order it from The Book Depository.

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1 reply »

  1. This one sounds really interesting, and if it’s the same Brian James as the Redwall series I may need to check it out purely for nostalgia purposes.

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