Dare to Dream
by Carys Jones
Digital ARC, 260 pages
Source: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Carys!
“The world was going to end. Of that, Maggie Trafford was certain.”
Fourteen-year-old Maggie Trafford leads a normal life. Well, as normal as being crammed in a three-bedroom house with four siblings and a single parent can be, anyway. But despite being somewhat ignored at home, Maggie excels, earning top grades, a best friend who would do anything for her, and stolen looks from a boy in Maths.
It’s not until the dreams start that Maggie realizes “normal” is the least of her problems. Every night, she lives the same nightmare—red lightning, shattered glass, destruction. But nightmares are just that, right? No one believes her when she says it’s an omen. At least, not until the already mysterious pillars of Stonehenge start falling.
No longer alone in her fear, Maggie and the world watch with bated breath as one after another, the historic stones tumble, like a clock counting down. But only Maggie knows what it means: when the last stone falls, destruction will reign. And when the world ends, there’s only one option left—survive.
Horrifying and raw, Dare to Dream is equal parts tragedy and hope, detailing the aftermath of apocalyptic catastrophe, the quest for survival, and the importance of belief.
Dare to Dream was a book with a great concept, great potential, and good writing. The pinchers were fascinating and raised so many questions — which weren’t touched on at all. The world didn’t “end” until almost exactly halfway through the book — which was way too long a wait. And then the latter half of the book became a grim, predictable trek to a safe destination. This novel could have gone in two directions, either or both of which could have been great and awesome, but it instead meandered around, not really sure of itself and not very fleshed out. Let me explain.
The first half of the book deals with Maggie’s family and school troubles. Her mom is absolutely frazzled, trying to raise five (?) kids, and is an alcoholic. Her dad left them years ago but Maggie does randomly visit him at one point. Which led me to believe that this book would become a story about a broken family coming together and trying to survive. (It didn’t. Which was disappointing, because Maggie’s mom, dad, and siblings were an eclectic bunch we didn’t really get to see much of.)
Maggie has nightmares about the world coming to an end when all of Stonehenge topples to the ground. The Stonehenge plot device wasn’t really elaborated on. Why was Stonehenge collapsing? What was the significance of it? Cool idea, but not very fleshed out. Anyway, Maggie talks about her recurring dreams to her family and friends, but no one believes her; they think she’s gone mental. Her best friend Dawn eventually believes she’s telling the truth, however, and so does a boy in their class, Andy, who stands up for Maggie when she’s being unfairly treated because of her reactions about the end of the world. When all of Stonehenge has finally fallen and the sky turns dark, a big storm looming overhead, Maggie, Dawn, and Andy take off in hopes of reaching a safe haven Maggie has dreamt about. A vision that her father also dreamt about — which, again, led me to believe this would be a story about a broken family coming together and trying to survive. Which didn’t happen. But makes me think Maggie’s dad will appear in a later book.
The second half of the book was The Trek. Maggie, Dawn, and Andy freaking out, appropriately, I would say, and walking, walking, walking for days, perhaps weeks, to find the caves in Maggie’s dreams. (She was right about the red lightning. Dawn and Andy have nothing better to believe, so onward they go!) Almost immediately I thought, Oh, is this going to become a journey-to-reach-a-destination kind of book? Yup. Even with all the lightning destroying entire towns and killing scores of people (SPOILER AHEAD: it appears that Maggie’s family, as well as her entire school she tried to warn, were zapped to rubble. So… no broken family coming together and trying to survive? END OF SPOILER), our trio of teens manages to somehow stay alive through the wasteland. Dawn gets a cut on her leg (arm? I forget) and Andy goes berserk over how careless they are when they have no medical supplies. (Rightly so, I’d say.) Maggie twists her ankle (knee?) and it heals but is then injured again when it’s useful for the plot. The three also somehow survive on a few backpacks full of energy bars and chips — except Dawn pigs out and eats most of their rations during her freak out periods. Yet, despite eating almost no food (and I don’t even remember them ever drinking water), these kids are still alive and trucking on! I did like, somewhat, how each of them reacted to the horror around them in different ways. Only Dawn got hysterical and super annoying, acting whiny and selfish. While Maggie closed up and acted a bit robotically, which meant she became a very bland protagonist. And Andy took on the role of leader and decided he had to protect the girls and guide them to safety. Sigh. Boys and their big heads.
The only instance where I got intrigued again was during their encounter with a “pincher”, a mechanical orb of some sort that seemed to be checking for survivors. This led me to speculate that aliens were behind the world’s destruction. And so maybe there would be a sci-fi twist introduced! Sadly, no aliens or otherworldly beings showed up, and all the questions concerning the pinchers were dropped pretty quickly. We went back to trekking for goodness knows how long, which really wasn’t that interesting. (SPOILER ALERT AHEAD!) But then another pincher showed up. And, like I saw coming, Dawn was killed off. She was getting really irritating anyway, and was definitely the group’s weakest link, but it was still abrupt and graphic. I saw it coming, but it was still distressing. After some brief grieving (like, seriously brief), Maggie and Andy continued on, he carried her over an abyss by crossing over a fallen tree when her knee/foot acted up again (whut…), they reached the park where the red lightning hadn’t struck, and found a bunch of other survivors in the caves Maggie dreamed of. (No Maggie’s dad, though, despite his visions of the same cave.) And that was the end. (END OF SPOILER.)
Dare to Dream had a great premise and really could have gone some interesting places, only it didn’t. So much potential, lacking execution. The overall story needed a lot more exploration and expansion, I think, and the plot could have moved faster and could have contained more information and events. I liked the tension between Maggie and her mother (which ultimately ended on a depressing note), I liked Stonehenge initiating the apocalypse (but wish there was a deeper meaning behind the ancient monument’s collapse), I liked the various reactions the three survivors had concerning the end of civilization (only the characters became unlikeable), and I liked the pinchers (but wish they’d played a much larger role). I wanted so much more from this book. It was a well-written story with great concepts that weren’t fully developed. ♦
So tell me…
Have you read Dare to Dream? If not, would you be interested to? What was the last end-of-the-world book you read? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!