Review: Dreamland Burning – Jennifer Latham

Title: Dreamland Burning

Author: Jennifer Latham (twitter) (site)

Publisher//Release Date: Little Brown Books for Young Readers// February 21st, 2017

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction

Source: Purchased

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Synopsis: Some bodies won’t stay buried. Some stories need to be told.

When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family’s property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past, the present, and herself.

One hundred years earlier, a single violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what’s right the night Tulsa burns.

Rating: 5/5

Again, I say: I love it when I’m not disappointed. This book popped up on my radar, piqued my interest and would not get out of my head. I hate getting interested in books where you don’t know the author or subject matter because you have nothing to ground your opinions in. You could wait and wait and wait and get so excited and be so, so disapppointed.

THIS IS NOT ONE OF THOSE BOOKS.

This book will be on my top books of the year list. There are few things that I can see topping this. This book is fan-freaking-tastic and I’m going to shout it from the rooftops.

Let’s break it down:

What I Liked:

  • Diversity. Given the subject matter, there is a great deal of diversity. Most of the characters are people of color of a variety of economic statuses. Both main characters are biracial. Rowan’s best friend James is stated multiple times to be aromantic asexual – something that I have never seen in a book. Lots of rep in the book.
  • The Characters.  The characters as a whole feel very, very real. Rowan’s section in particular felt like it could have been nonfiction at times – these are people who really live in Tulsa right now. The two main characters are the cornerstones of this novel. Rowan and Will so damn intriguing and go through a lot of growth through the course of the novel. I would say that Will’s growth was more drastic – I was super uncomfortable reading from his point of view after his first chapter and watching his journey was an experience, to say the least. Rowan, who has grown up with privilege of which she is aware, gets a first hand lesson in the “real world” in a couple of ways – including a major one. I really like Rowan in general. I want to be friends with her and James.
  • The Pacing. The chapters alternate between Rowan and Will’s points of view and, as they’re discussing the same story from almost 100 years apart – the skeleton in Rowan’s house and trying to match it to someone from Will’s story –  it ends up with the dueling cliffhanger thing that can suck you in if done correctly. Believe me when I say it’s done correctly here. Its super effective and draws you in and made it very hard to put down.
  • The Subject Matter. I am severely questioning why I never learned about the Tulsa Race Riot in school – especially college. I WAS AN AMERICAN HISTORY MAJOR. WHY DID I NOT LEARN ABOUT THIS UNTIL AFTER MY DEGREE.But this book pulls no punches. Like I’ve mentioned before, Will’s first chapter made me super uncomfortable, as did a lot of his chapters. There’s much talk of the KKK and Jim Crow laws, as well as laws that affected Native Americans and, the farther you get into Will’s story, you start to question whether or not you like the characters surrounding him. But even in Rowan’s chapters, there’s still racism that Rowan experiences first hand, and biases that she herself holds. There are moments that really make you think about your life and biases that you hold.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The Fact it Ended.There is literally nothing about this book that I can view negatively. I have nothing to complain about. I absolutely loved it. So freaking much.

A little tidbit of information for those interested is that there is no romance in this book. There’s mentions of it here and there – mostly from Will’s POV – but neither of our main characters actively have a love interest in the story as a whole. The story doesn’t need it

tl;dr: Dreamland Burning is a fantastic semi-historical fiction novel about a NOT TALKED ABOUT event in American history and how the racism that lead to that event still exists in our world now. I HIGHLY recommend this book. HIGHLY. Like, go get it right now.

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