by Brent Hartinger
Review by Gayle Surrette
Starscape Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765313973
Date: 01 May 2007 List Price $16.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Julie Fray is a normal eleven-year-old. She's got a best friend, Lisa. She's teased by the in-crowd, when they notice her at all. She's the prize in her parents' tug of war; each of her parents trying to get Julie to say she likes them best. The tension between her parents and their putting her in the middle of every battle is making it hard to sleep -- especially when her nightmares seem to take her fears and magnify them. But when she slips through a tear and ends up in her personal dream studio, Julie decides to find out who is in charge and demand that the nightmares stop. But, then nothing is that simple.
The story is entertaining as Julie makes friends while escaping the clutches of the evil Trull and journeying through Slumberia to find the person or persons in charge of her dreams. Along the way, we learn about Julie and her friends. Theoretically, Julie is journeying through her own mind … but not. If you just accept the premise and ignore the consequences then it's a fun tale reminiscent of the movie Labyrinth though Julie doesn't, at first, have to rescue someone else, she's trying to save herself. When Julie found she had to go to Castle Alucard (and is there anyone who doesn't know who's going to be living there), I thought we'd be sifting through Julies view of life colored by her TV watching and reading, and she'd be making some gains in understanding herself by doing so. Instead the book plays it straight; Julie has somehow managed to get into her subconscious via a small tear in the fabric between her conscious and unconscious. Of course, that would mean in the real world nobody would be home (Julie), so to speak, making this a very different book; but the actress who plays Julie in her dreams manages to get sucked through the tear and now she's taking over Julie's life so there's a bit of symmetry to the story.
The story is engaging and fun, there are some interesting characters (Trull, glowworms, moon people, grognits, shark lawyers) and fun sequences and plot twists that made me chuckle. There's also a poignancy since Julie represents all the kids being used by their parents in their battles as they "stay together for the children" -- as they tear the children's lives apart trying to one up each other. I'd imagine that any child going through this just might appreciate this story as it would assure them that they aren't as alone as they might feel.