dreamland by sarah dessen: a book review

I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t tell anyone. As long as I didn’t say it aloud, it wasn’t real.

Sarah Dessen

I actually finished a book! It’s been a long time.

But this one was well deserved. I actually stumbled across this book because I was looking up stories that centered around high school relationships, particularly abusive ones. I’m currently writing a book that deals with that so I wanted to see how someone else portrayed it in their own work. My experience helps, but sometimes you need a little extra insight. A little research.

And this book was not only helpful for that, but I also think it’s something that more people need to read. Dating violence is so common, especially with teens, because it’s a whirlwind of hormones and wanting to be liked. Teenagers usually don’t have the life experience to pick up on the red flags that can show up in relationships, so I think this book is a good public service announcement to show how deep it can really get.

Warning! Some spoilers ahead so if you plan on reading this, then I would stop now and come back later.


I’m going to keep this short and sweet! The book follows Caitlin, our main character, as she tries to navigate the intricacies of stepping out of another person’s shadow. She has always been second best in comparison to her older sister, Cass.

When Cass runs away, this leaves Caitlin with the opportunity to be seen by her family, to forge her own path, and this way of thinking leads her to Rogerson, our antagonist.

The entire book after that just shows the decline in Caitlin’s relationship with the people around her, her own mental health, and her relationship with Rogerson.

It deals with heavy themes of physical abuse, drug use, verbal/mental abuse, etc. So if that’s triggering for you, then I wouldn’t recommend reading it!


Honestly, I loved all the characters. Even Rogerson. Before you attack be with the pitchforks just hear me out.

  1. Caitlin
    • I’m a sucker for characters who are relatively likable. People aren’t perfect, but I never found myself getting annoyed with her or slogging through the book because I couldn’t relate. She was well developed because of her thought process about feeling invisible and inadequate and her need to feel like she was important, like she was someone that was worth being noticed. I can understand (from her mindset) why Rogerson was a way out of that space she was used to and why she had a hard time leaving when things started to escalate. I feel like well developed characters are usually the ones that you can see yourself in.
  2. Rogerson
    • Okay! So remember how I said I was a Psychology major? That’s the mindset I’m coming from when I discuss his character. I’m not saying his childhood excuses him from abuse and it doesn’t make it right. However, because he felt powerless with his own father, he lashed out at someone that wouldn’t fight back. On top of that, I doubt he was modeled healthy coping strategies for his emotions, hence why he lacked the emotional maturity to avoid contributing to the abusive cycle that he had been caught in for years. So that’s why I actually liked his character and how it was written because you can tell the author put a lot of thought into it. Even though people can do the opposite of what they were taught, others just become so comfortable in the familiarity, even if it’s wrong.
  3. Cass
    • She should be considered a minor character (and she really is) but I actually enjoyed her when she did pop up. I felt like Dessen still managed to flesh out a character that didn’t necessarily contribute anything to the story (other than propelling Caitlin in the beginning). I felt like her motivations were valid because if most of your life is spent being planned by the people around you, it starts to get suffocating. It doesn’t give you the chance to discover who you are.

The rest were minor characters so I’m not going to really include them in the breakdown, but I still felt like they were well written and had their own unique voice.


The best way I can explain her writing is simple and poetic. It kept me hooked, which was a good thing, and I felt like every sentence had an impact. I didn’t feel like anything that was written was a waste of time or that it didn’t belong there.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Solid 4.5! Not a five because it was something that changed my life but it was still a strong piece of fiction that everybody should read at least once.

Until next time!


Published by thewriterchick

Hey everyone! My name is Kae a.k.a TheWriterChick and I'm a self published author, business owner and YouTuber. I post writing, lifestyle and book content so if that interests you make sure to stick around!

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