Monday, April 02, 2012

Review: Life Is But a Dream by Brian James

From Back Cover: Sabrina has always been special. She sees swirling colors that streak across the clouds like rainbows in soapy water, and feels the win blowing through her soul like the fiery wave from an atomic blast, things she uses in her art. Before, she felt special in a good way, like she was delicate and rare. Not like now, when everyone thinks she's sick. Now, she special like something's wrong with her. That's why her parents put her in the Wellness Center. Then one day, she looks up and sees Alec. He seems like a familiar stranger - someone Sabrina recognizes from her dreams, as if they've always known each other and were meant to be together. Alec looks at her as if she were still special, but in a good way. In his mind, it's the world that's mad, locking them away because they aren't like all the other brain-dead teens shuffling through the malls. Listening to him, Sabrina becomes afraid that the doctors are going to turn her into someone else, someone she won't even recognize. Now, Alec and Sabrina have a choice: to stay and be changed into the people the doctors want them to be, or to run away and chase their dreams ... 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Life Is But a Dream by Brian James was a book that took me a while to get into because of its slow pace, especially in the first half. However, I also thought this was an advantage because it enables you to enjoy this beautifully written novel and really get into the mind of Sabrina as she slowly starts unraveling again.

When we first meet Sabrina, she’s at the Wellness Center; and her schizophrenia seems to be under control. By interspersing flashbacks throughout the novel, I thought James did a good job of showing the difference in Sabrina’s behaviour and personality in the present as opposed to them in the past.

As well, I found Sabrina’s perspective on her disorder to be pretty interesting. You can kind of understand why she doesn’t want to change and misses her old self, but at the same time, as an observer, you realize just how blurred the line between reality and imagination is for Sabrina when she’s having hallucinations or delusions. For me, reading Life Is But a Dream was sobering and scary because schizophrenia is an actual disorder that makes life very disorienting. James gives you a glimpse of that reality when Sabrina starts having hallucinations and delusions again. This makes her narrative unique, and it's jarring when her flashbacks start colliding with the present.

The romance in Life Is But a Dream wasn’t as enjoyable because it felt sort of fake. I also didn’t like the character of Alec because I thought he was a bad influence on Sabrina and didn’t understand how serious her disorder was. It’s hard for me to understand why a place like the Wellness Center would accept someone like Alec, and hope situations like that don’t occur very often in real life – or if they do, people need to be monitored more.

Life Is But a Dream was released by Feiwel and Friends in March 2012.

Comments About the Cover: I like how the girl is just lying on the ground and seems to be staring at the reader. I think it’s haunting and kind of creepy.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Raincoast Books) for free. 


  1. I'm on the fence of reading this one. While I'm interested in finding out about the author's take on mental illness, I don't think I have the time to wait for half of a book to get into the story. My reading time is really limited these days. I'm putting this one on my "maybe, I'll try this one later" list.

  2. Okay, that romance is sounding way creepy. Seriously! Why the need to be over ambiguous when it isn't necessary?! A story about schizophrenia would have been unique enough and something that could have been explored without throwing in a romance that feels fake anyway. That fake feeling probably feels fake because it was thrown in as an after thought. Like, "Hey, don't we need to insert a guy here and here?"

    Grrrrrrrrrrrrr! Sorry, I just realized it's too early in the AM for ranting. LOL

  3. I'm really curious about this one, I love when I have a narrator I'm not sure I can fully trust and I have to figure out what is actually real and what is just real to her. The romance aspect is a bit disappointing though, as much as I love a good romance, sometimes I think a story could be more successful if it was left out entirely. Thanks for the fabulous review Zahida!

  4. Oohhhhh, I remember reading a review for this one that felt the exact same way as you! The fact that Sabrina actually has schizophrenia is so intriguing, especially since we don't get very many YA books where the MC actually has some sort of disorder, and I'm glad that this part of the book worked for you even if the romance didn't -- it sounds like such a cool book, although I'm kind of sad that I won't have another swoon-worthy Alec to add to my list LOL! x)

    Really awesome honest review, Z! :) <3

  5. Thanks for your review. To the commenting people, I recommend you read other reviews as well. Most readers have really enjoyed the love story aspect.

  6. Sometimes, the fact that things are real makes it creepy. This book sounds scary and unnerving, but intriguing and fascinating. Sabrina sounds understandable and nice. Alec sounds pretty awful, though. I'm curious as to see how bad he is, though I probably won't like him all that much. Fabulous review! :D

    1. Looking forward to picking this book back up again. I really liked it so far!

  7. I thought the same thing about this one. I loved the part where we were in her mind the illness was very well portrayed (from what I learned in psych class at least - I'm not a pro O_O) but it was still pretty slow paced which stopped me from loving it. Great review dollface!!

  8. I am very hesitant to read books about mental illness, but I've been curious about this one. Thanks for your honest review, it's very helpful.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden


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