When pragmatic Stella’s imaginative twin brother, Cole, loses his spirit in the dream world, she must rescue him before he is consumed by shadow creatures who thrive on the creative brightness of human beings.
It begins when Cole investigates something he sees moving in the subway and becomes so spooked he leaves his treasured notebook of stories behind. Cole’s behavior swiftly changes, and Stella begins to have dreams that land her in the Dreamway, the place where all human beings go when they dream. There she encounters Anyway, a Door Mouse who just happens to possess a torn piece of Cole’s notebook. Anyway informs Sheila that her brother’s spirit has been taken by a Chimerath, and to rescue him, they must get to the Nightmare Line. Stella struggles to navigate her waking hours, during which Cole is becoming angrier and more violent, and her time in the Dreamway, where she and Anyway, with the help of a few Dreamway employees, work to find Cole before his light is completely drained. Though the worldbuilding can be arbitrary and is largely delivered in expository dumps from Anyway, this tale has a beguiling, appropriately Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland–steampunk feel. The book subscribes to the white default. Stella has a childhood stroke–induced physical disability by day; although it seems to disappear by night as she bravely traverses the unpredictable landscape of the dream world, Anyway tells her she is not healed, adding a layer of healthy realism.
An unsettling, engaging dream-world adventure. (Fantasy. 10-12)