f0zKg0J4zFLYz-Yq0aednQVqREE Once Upon a Prologue: Review: Life is But a Dream by Brian James
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Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Life is But a Dream by Brian James

Life is But a Dream by Brian James
Pages: 234
Expected publication: March 27, 2012 (Feiwel and Friends)
Series or stand-alone: stand-alone
Rating: Squee-worthy
Source: E-ARC from NetGalley
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Find the author online: Blog | Twitter

Alec and Sabrina are crazy in love. Problem is: Sabrina’s really crazy.

Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it's the world that's crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she'll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? Her decision may have fatal consequences.

My Review

I was excited to read Life is But a Dream because of the unique setting and subject matter, yet I was somewhat hesitant, as well: a love story that takes place in an insane asylum?  Behind the name "Wellness Center," that's essentially where Sabrina and Alec are during the vast majority of Life is But a Dream; however, once I actually started reading, Brian James, between his writing style, and his strong, well-developed characters, lured me fully into the story.  Despite the fact that Sabrina, our heroine, is a diagnosed schizophrenic, the writing style is very clear and easy to follow, which was unexpected.  Having previously read and enjoyed Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me, I was extremely curious as to if I would be able to not only follow, but enjoy, Sabrina's point of view.  I found her to be heart-achingly real.  Her narrative was vivid, imaginative, and unorthodox - all she wanted was to be herself, and she couldn't understand why everyone was so insistent that she change. 

When Sabrina meets Alec, everything is different.  He's the first person in too long who looks at her and doesn't see anything wrong.  In fact, Alec encourages her to hold tightly to her perspective on the world.  From the summary, I was worried that Alec might be a danger to Sabrina; instead, in some ways, he is actually good for her.  Alec and Sabrina were a really fascinating part of Life is But a Dream.  Their relationship almost came across as insta-love, except it was somehow deeper than that.  It was clear that they really did care a great deal for one another, each in their own ways.

Interspersed with childhood memories and the events that led up to Sabrina's stay at the Wellness Center, Life is But a Dream spins the tale of Sabrina's struggle to reconcile her view of the world with the world's view of her.  While others around her gave up their childhood fantasies, Sabrina stubbornly holds on.  It was both fascinating and heart-rending, watching her slowly begin to question everything she had ever believed in: was she right or wrong?  Should she listen to Alec, or to her therapists? 

I really enjoyed Life is But a Dream, largely due to the fact that Sabrina was entirely relatable; although the reader knows she is a schizophrenic, Sabrina doesn't - shes just lost and confused.  Seeing her come to terms with the fact that she does need help, that the medicine prescribed to her isn't meant to harm her, was done so carefully and realistically by Brian James that it felt absolutely real.  I could sympathize with Sabrina, even as my heart ached for her, and I wanted her to see what I saw: that she needed help.

The latter half of Life is But a Dream didn't play out as I expected - it was much better.  I really expected the story to end tragically; instead, I actually was able to breathe a sigh of relief with the hopeful ending.   The pacing matches to the story being told - the urgency builds nicely as the climax approaches.  Life is But a Dream is a strong story that readers won't soon forget, as it questions what it means to be normal, and the risk of conforming.


In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  No money or compensation of any sort exchanged hands.   I review books with no intention of monetary gain; rather, I review books out of my love of reading.


Jade said...

Lovely review. Sounds like an interesting story albeit different from what I usually read. I'm curious how the author weaves this tale about these two young people who need help. An insane asylum is certainly a different kind of setting so I'm wondering how it all plays out. I'm glad to know that it does end on a hopeful note.

Lan Chan said...

I'm always scared to read books with characters with mental illness because it can depress me a bit. This one sounds like it would actually be very interesting. You know how I feel about Shatter Me so an easy to read character who happens to have schizophrenia makes me curious. I'll have to try and give this one a go.

jessasank said...

I've been super excited to check this one out. Reading your review, especially that last paragraph, makes me more excited. When there's books dealing with serious issues like this, there's always a strong possibility it will end badly. Sometimes I don't like reading those books. A few of them I'll tolerate if the message is strong, but some of them will make me so mad when something horribly tragic happens. Anyways, I look forward to reading this one! :)

Kat Balcombe said...

I'm going to be reading this book next week and reading your review has made me look forward to it so much more! I love strong characters, and I'm really intrigued about what happens in the end now!

Great review!

Jay said...

This one sounds really good, I haven't read a character who's schizophrenic. I think I might give this a try since it seems like you really liked it. I just wish you have some kind of rating?

Jay @ We Fancy Books

Sophia said...

I was very hesitant about this book because of the concept. Now I feel as if I'm missing out! You make me want to read this book. It sounds so unique and the characters sound great. The cover totally creeps my out, though, haha. Marvelous review, Molli! <3

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

Thank you for your lovely comment! It's been awhile since I read this one, but Sabrina was a really interesting character and this book kinda dared to question "what is normal?" I hope you enjoy it if you read it!

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

I did enjoy it! It was different than what I was expecting. And it's not a starred rating but I DO have a rating system, located here. I gave this book a "squee-worthy" rating.

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

Sabrina is nothing like Juliette. The writing style flows in an entirely different way than (for me) SM's did. Sabrina truly is mentally unwell whereas to me, Juliette's issues came from severe isolation and being treated poorly by her family. So yes, this book was different and unique, and I would suggest you giving it a try! :)

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

Thank you, Jade! It WAS different, even than I was thinking it would be, due to some of the twists and turns. I was afraid the love story was going to be too insta-love but it really did wind up feeling realistic!

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

Exactly, and I was SO afraid the ending would ruin the book; luckily, this one was different! The message here was very, very interesting and the ending was hopeful!

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

Thank you for your comment! I am glad you'll be reading this one and I sincerely hope you enjoy it! :)

Asher_Knight said...

I'm so anxious to read this book!! I have it sitting in my kindle via NetGalley waiting to be read, and you've just made it sound more amazing than I'd initially given it credit for. I love the cover, but this makes me all stoked and happy. Lovely review!


Michelle @ Book Briefs said...

Thanks for your review! I haven' t heard of this one before and now I think I want to check it out. Im going to send you an email about the girl who could silence the wind ;) I have an ARC of the book and if you would like it, its yours :)

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