Synopsis: 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 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.
Review: There is so much I simply LOVE about this book! First, it’s all about one of my favorite authors of all time, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. One of the most brilliant things about this book is that it introduces in an easy to understand way the complexities of Poe’s works. This is great for any fan of supernatural / gothic YA who may have felt intimidated by the man and his stories. The reader, through the cheerleader Isobel, is slowly dropped into the world of Poe, a world that often blurs the lines between reality and something darker.
What else works for this book? The dynamic relationship between Isobel and Varen is on point. These two people come from completely different social circles, and their relationship takes time to build and grow into something. This perhaps is my favorite thing about them as a couple. It’s not love at first sight. It’s a story about two people who have to find who they want to be before they can be with each other. And neither of them is perfect. I love that Isobel is hesitant to give up her world of the socially elite, and I enjoyed seeing Varen have to discard his own prejudices about Isobel. One scene in particular really emphasized the beauty with which Creagh showcased this relationship. Without giving too much away, I will say it involved a roof and ice cream. It’s not a crazy passionate scene, but it’s hesitant and endearing, and utterly enjoyable.
What didn’t work?
The first half of the book spends much of its time with Isobel trying to decipher what is real and what is not, though without much allusion to the supernatural beyond some odd dreams. Honestly, the first half of the book isn’t really supernatural/gothic at all. It’s more about the characters and their relationship. That’s what makes the second half of the book a bit overwhelming. It’s so full of supernatural/gothic elements that I began to desperately miss the human/relationship elements of the story. Our characters don’t get much of a chance to figure out how they fit into this new, surreal world. I just missed them together.
I honestly still don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe it’s because I am deep in my own book revisions for an agent, or still trying to get use to the new school year, but I sort of got lost. Or maybe I just shut down when the gothic elements became more important than the characters.
That being said, I still REALLY enjoyed this book. I can’t wait for the sequel. And Creagh’s website is the coolest website I have seen in a long time.