Title – Life is but a Dream
Author – Brian James
Publisher - Feiwel & Friends
Date Published – March 27, 2012
Review is based on eARC from NetGalley
Life is but a Dream tells the story of a teenager named Sabrina who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed to a psychiatric ward. Soon after, she meets Alec, another patient in the psych ward, and together they begin to question whether they even want to “fit in” with society. Sabrina wonders if the medications are designed to turn her into a robotic version of herself, a version that everyone else is comfortable with, but is it really who she is?
The beautiful writing brings to life in vivid detail the strange and colorful world that Sabrina inhabits when lost in her visions. She tries to connect her two realities with her drawings that seem to express all of the things she can’t put into words. There were times when I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around her logic, but was fascinated all the same. Sabrina’s unusual way of perceiving the world was captured perfectly so that I was able to empathize with her even though I often couldn’t follow her logic. The world she envisioned for herself was filled with color and connection and emotion and once she met Alec, she felt she finally found someone who understood her, who could see the world the same way that she did.
Alec was also a very complex character. He seemed to be always just on the edge of becoming violent, so full of rage and anger. But he seemed to focus all of that negative energy into protecting Sabrina. He also felt like she was the only person who understood him, who saw him for the person that he really was. Together they viewed anyone outside of their little bubble as the enemy. I alternately felt sorry for Alec because he was also just a kid with very real problems, and annoyed with him because he refused to see things that were so obvious and instead made some very stupid impulsive decisions.
There was definitely an aspect of insta-love and obsessive love, but it seemed to be fitting considering the mental issues that Alec and Sabrina each struggled with. Their relationship made sense and was even rather beautiful in its own way. It was so obvious that Alec really cared about Sabrina that I couldn’t help but root for them even when I wasn’t sure whether being together was the best thing for either of them.
Life is but a Dream was an enjoyable, thought provoking story. There were several unexpected surprises. I never felt like I knew exactly where the story was headed. The doctors, nurses, and other background characters were very much in the background but still did not feel one dimensional. The story meandered back and forth from past to present which sometimes became a little confusing. And the choice to forego quotation marks was a bit distracting sometimes when I had to determine who was speaking and whether it was dialog or thoughts. There were, however, very few flaws and I definitely enjoyed reading this.
Rating - 4