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LIFE IS BUT A DREAM by Brian James


by Brian James

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: March 27th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-312-61004-3
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

A simplistic resolution mars an otherwise reality-bending exploration of schizophrenia.

Sabrina sees things differently from other people. She sees faces in the sky, heaven between ocean waves and, more disturbingly, a sinister static “like a swarm of invisible insects devouring the scenery.” The book opens with Sabrina in a mental-health facility, where she is taking medications and making what the doctors call progress. Then Alec arrives at the Wellness Center, angry, arrogant, charismatic and certain that the medications and treatment are forms of mind control. The narrative perspective is firmly Sabrina's, and readers experience the joys and horrors of her reality along with her. Flashbacks, interspersed with the present-day story, recall Sabrina's friendships, boys who took advantage of her and, in a timely and believable touch, an incident on a social-networking website. Alec, in the institution for making violent threats, seems far less trustworthy than Sabrina believes, and yet his argument that the mental-health system works under an unfairly narrow definition of normal is compelling. Unfortunately, a sudden and too-tidy reversal at the end removes the book's ambiguity and feels untrue to the characters involved.

Provocative questions; too-easy answers. (Fiction. 12 & up)