The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students’ lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students’ schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What’s worse is, she starts to notice that the ridges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.”
I’m not entirely sure how to review this book, except to say that I was really enjoying it until the end. This book had the reality game aspect of The Hunger Games but without the certainty of carnage. In other words, you know that something is going on, and that it’s dangerous, but you don’t have the sure knowledge that people are going to die (or at least be seriously injured). For me, that kept the tension high and kept me reading.
The novel also taps into the sheer randomness of social media. Students gain ratings that are judged by how many people are tuned into their particular camera feed, and that can fluctuate wildly depending on what someone does or says at any given moment. It’s got a very Big Brother-ish feel to it. I don’t watch that show, but my mom does, and I’ve seen it a couple of times while staying at my parents’ place, so I can definitely attest to the similarity.
I liked the characters—there weren’t many that were highlighted, but the author does a pretty good job of making them feel like well-rounded people. This is especially true for the “antagonists”, those at the school who may be harboring secrets. The headmaster in particular comes across as incredibly canny and a great actor. Rosie is a likeable protagonist, and uses her intelligence to her advantage in ways that do come across as creative outside-the-box thinking.
What I didn’t like about this novel is that the ending essentially dead-ends the story. By this I don’t mean that no more books will be written about these characters, although I’m pretty sure that’s the case. It’s more that you get the feeling that all of the novel that came previous didn’t mean anything. It’s hard to talk about this without spoiling it, but basically Rosie’s actions didn’t get closure in a way that felt meaningful to me. It left me thinking “Wait, that’s it?”
I liked about 98% of this novel, and then the ball was dropped at the end. I think I would still recommend this book to fans of The Hunger Games and its ilk, simply because the ending may not be such a turn-off to others. The Vault of Dreamers does have an interesting premise and, for the most part, works well with it.
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Page Count: 432
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley
Read an excerpt