I just finished reading an advanced copy of The Dream Experiment by CL Currie. She graciously allowed me to make notes right on a copy of her book. I LOVED having that interaction with the author! This is a fantastic book that I highly recommend for middle school students. The language and scenes are PG13 or better so I am comfortable suggesting it to a wide range of kiddos. I think it could easily pull in reluctant readers IF they can handle a timeline that jumps back and forth. It is very obvious which scenes change time, but that can confuse some readers.
From the very beginning we find Tom to have amazing talents of quick healing (like a superhero) and an ability to recognize and control dreams. Moving back in time, through dream memories, gives us the background information to understand what is probably going on. This is done in such an enjoyable way and not the detail laden info-dump that many books offer. Instead we learn what we need through action and a light conversation. Then, the reading changes POV’s and we start thinking we know exactly what is going on despite that it is obviously years in the future, then one line, “Tom quit the experiment early” has the reader questioning almost everything again. Books like this are awesome as they keep the reader on their toes, fully engaged in figuring out the puzzle. This puzzle lasts right up until the end, but the conclusion is just as strong as the rest of the book.
I love how easily the author changes POV in the book. Each time it happens cleanly and we get a whole new understanding of the action. The intentional contrast of some facts had me wanting to take notes to puzzle out the mystery. The slow build up of understanding is key to this being an enjoyable read. It is one that you think about through the day until you get back to reading.
I missed a day of reading The Dream Experiment about half way through, because of adulting responsibilities. Despite it being a Young Adult book I kept thinking about the characters and the puzzle. The character development is excellent. I do not typically enjoy books that move back and forth in a character’s timeline, but the plot development hinges on that movement through time and it is superbly done. As we learn pieces of present day and then more from their several decades of background together we believe that we understand the puzzle. Then we get a new angle and our opinions change. Ms. Currie has done an expert job of weaving the storyline and character development.
I love the tone of this book of the mother teaching, with Tom’s help explaining. Later this is more of a peer interaction. Any reader can also learn, or immediately recognize what they already know, without feeling obtuse. This is a perfect tone for a YA book! Even better I, as an adult, learned also as Becky explained about her Celtic roots of Bards, Druids, and Ovates. I had never learned of Ovates. As the story moves along, there are fewer instances of teaching, but still, everything as it is explained or discovered along the way, flows naturally.
I absolutely recommend The Dream Experiment to schools and libraries. I think it might appeal to many reluctant readers, especially anyone interested in the possible capabilities of science. The special abilities of these characters are sci-fi but done so well that it seems completely believable. Personally, I find auras and such very interesting. The language and scenes used are bland enough to be accepted in middle school classrooms and far less than what many children see on their screens everyday. I would love to have this book available in my classroom!