Saturday, July 19, 2008

WAKE by Lisa McMann

Going to sleep and experiencing your own nightmares is bad enough, but imagine experiencing everyone else's dreams as well as your own. Janie has been doing just that for most of her life.

Living with her alcoholic mother isn't much help, but having her best friend just next door offers a bit of comfort. But even Janie's best friend Carrie doesn't know her terrifiying secret. Whenever Janie is near a person who falls asleep, she is in danger of entering that person's dreams. She is especially unhappy when her new school schedule reveals that she will have study hall after lunch this year. That offers its own unique challenge since high schoolers have enough trouble staying awake in class, let alone after lunch in a boring study hall. Falling into someone's dream in front of her fellow classmates is extremely stressful. If the dream goes on too long, Janie appears to be having a seizure when her vision blurs into blindness and her body becomes paralyzed. She tries to live a normal seventeen year old life, but she faces challenges everyday.

Janie's life begins to change when two people enter her life - fellow classmate, Cabel and elderly, blind Miss Stubin. Cabel rescues Janie on the night of the homecoming dance when he takes her home on his skateboard. His kindness fascinates her, and she begins to watch him with a new appreciation. When he suddenly changes his hairstyle and makes a new fashion statement, she seems to be the only one at school who doesn't think he is a new student. After falling into one of his dreams, she realizes he has a secret of his own and vows to learn more.

Miss Stubin enters her life when Janie starts working at a local nursing home. The gentle, old woman seems pleased when Janie takes the time to talk with her and read to her. Her work at the nursing home sometimes frustrates Janie when she accidentally enters the dreams of a resident close to death. The dreams are often frightening and upsetting. Miss Stubin's dreams are more peaceful and when she dies, Janie is heart-broken. However, when Miss Stubin appears in someone else's dream, Janie realizes they had something very valuable in common. Inspired by this knowledge, Janie gathers the courage she needs to confront her unusual talent.

Lisa McMann has hit the mark with this excellent YA novel. The ability to experience and even influence the dreams of another person is scary, but fascinating stuff. Readers will sympathize with Janie and admire her strength as she deals with her unique abilities and her less-than-ideal life. Readers will also be happy to know that WAKE is not the end of Janie's story - FADE will be appearing as a sequel with hopefully more to follow.

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