The first book in the Dreams series by the author J. J. DiBenedetto, Dream Student is a young adult (YA) mystery with a twist. The author sent me the book with a request to read and review (I will also get the rest of the books in the series, so reviews will come shortly), and I immediately jumped at the opportunity for one main reason: I am interested in dreams, especially lucid dreaming, projecting into astral space from lucid dreams, vivid dreams and learning how the subconscious works in related to dreams. So it seemed like a book after my own heart.
I really didn’t know much about the story at this time except it has to do with dreams and it’s a crime mystery. It is about Sara Barnes (who was born incidentally the same year with me), currently a medical student (pre-med) at the end of the 1980s. Oh how I can relate to those late teen times!
Sara is a 21 year old normal girl, with normal friends at the campus. She has a very good friend from way back called Beth who is really her best friend – and who will come very handy throughout the entire book.
Sara’s main worry is really passing the finals with flying colors and what to give as gift to her Secret Santa this year. Right until the dreams start. The first dream was interesting enough – fun in fact. In her dream she watched a guy watching her in his own dream. She basically entered his dream.
This led to Sara actually making the first move and approach him when she indeed sees him one evening when out with Beth. Very not her usual behavior, but there is is, suddenly she is that confident girl she would never be in normal circumstances, and she feels good about herself as well.
But then dreams of a different nature start to plague her nights leading up to some nightmares that wake even Beth from her deep sleep. Sara find herself in the dreams of a killer, watching every little detail of how the guy tortures the girls, kills them and even where he dumps them. And what’s worse – these killings do indeed happen in real life, she reads about them a few days later in the newspaper. Which of course, freak her out big time..
She soon realizes that they’re indeed the dreams of another real person that she can enter. It’s not really ESP at work, not lucid dreaming (although at some point she does become lucid when she has a task to do in her dream), it’s really the weird ability to enter someone else’s dream. Kind of like the Inception movie (which I loved, btw).
Soon she figures with the help of her friends that she CAN do something about the killer using he dreams. What she will do – I’ll leave it up to you to read and find out. It’s fun though.
Along the way she also entes the dreams of other people, including her family and her colleagues at the dorm. I did find this aspect interesting (like I said, I love everything about exploring dreams), however I don’t think it contributed much to the whodunit aspect of the story.
In fact most of the times I found myself inside Sara’s head, listening to all her thoughts 24/7, whether they were related to the case or not. And for the most part, they weren’t. The Secret Santa, as fun as it usually is, took way too much space in the whole book. Agonizing what to buy to her SS, helping others with their own SS projects…
When I really think about it, the crime solving part occupies only the last few chapters in the book. That’s all. And still, this didn’t detract me from enjoying the story.
So if you’re expecting a serious over the top suspenseful crime thriller, this book won’t be it. It’s not that much suspenseful really. But it is fun to read and I was quite curious to learn who the killer would be and how would Sara find him.
Something that bothered me a tiny bit – at times I found myself wondering whether the author really does know how a 21 year old young woman talks or thinks. It was more like I was listening to the thoughts of a 17 year old. Other times everything fell into place nicely and I was reading at a steady fast pace without any hickups.
Overall the book is a great start of a new series, and now I’m looking forward to reading the second one. I was alternating between giving this YA mystery a strong 3.5 stars or a 4 stars, but it will be 4 stars because the actual dream topic really sucked me in.
To read more about Dream Student by J.J. DiBenedetto, or to read more review, check it out on Amazon.