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Life is But a Dream by Brian James

picture of book cover

Let’s assume that there is a dearth in the young adult market representing schizophrenic teenage girls.  I can buy that. But I can absolutely say that there is no need for yet another book involving a naïve, mentally ill girl who finds happiness with a guy with anger issues.

[amazon 0312610041 inline] is the worst thing I’ve read this year, although to be fair it’s only April. But that’s not even necessarily a total indictment of James, who excels at describing how 15-year-old Sabrina often escapes into her own world. I will admit there is a certain amount of value in portraying how schizophrenia often does not come with hallucinations or violence. Instead, Sabrina’s fantasy world is one that her parents believe she’d grow out of, and instead she finds herself taken advantage of by so-called friends. That lands her in a mental hospital, where she meets Alec. 

It’s here that anyone who likes a good coming-of-age story will go “what in the what?” Sabrina and Alec manage to fall in love, Sabrina stops taking her medication, Alec convinces her to escape (all the while being a tad unclear as to what got him to the hospital other than a rich unfair father), they’re caught in bed together eventually.  Even if you believe that someone who is mentally ill is gullible and sucked in by a cute boy, there’s no indication that Sabrina has inferior intelligence or even low self-esteem. She likes that she’s different, so why she’s drawn to Alec’s increasingly terrible ideas or doesn’t listen to those around her who are like, “um, so maybe you should focus on getting healthy” is unclear.

And then it gets worst.

A personal pet peeve is reviews that give too much away, even when a book is not worth your time, so I will refrain from typing out all the implausible events that follow. But suffice to say that even more than the incredible coincidences that arise in Sabrina’s life, what bothered me most is the ending is a place where Feminism goes to die. I cannot think of a more negative message to teenage girls than the one depicting that they aren’t in control of their own destinies or that they need a man to save them. Should this book appear within eyesight of you or your daughters, please direct them toward Before I Fall, the works of Carolyn Mackler or The Hunger Games, natch.