By: Brian James
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Genre/Age: Contemporary YA
Source: ARC from Around the World Tours
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.
This book was so much more real than I was expecting. For some reason when I first heard about it I got the impression that it had almost a psychological thriller feel to it and that the reader was going to be unsure about which was reality - Sabina’s dreams or the facility where she lives. This is NOT the plot, clearly I am just an idiot (in my defense I think I first read a different synopsis than the one above), and what happens is actually a very beautiful story about Sabrina’s struggle with schizophrenia.
Life Is But a Dream portrays Sabrina’s condition incredibly well and it is so easy to sympathize with her. Brian James really manages to get inside her head, allowing the reader to see the world the way Sabrina does and understand why she gets worried about losing herself to the medication. Some of the things she sees sound so beautiful, and it doesn’t always feel like she’s crazy. She’s just afraid of her life changing and she doesn’t want to become a mindless robot like the rest of the world. You can’t help but get caught up in her story.
Alec as a love interest was very interesting. He and Sabrina fall in love very quickly, which isn’t my favorite thing, but is understandable under the circumstances. They have both been locked away from the world, told that they’re crazy, and they find comfort and understanding in each other. I totally get it, and it was wonderful to watch their connection develop and see someone understand Sabrina in a way that she hasn’t experienced for her entire life. What made it interesting to me was that at certain times I thought that Alec almost felt like the villain. As a reader I became so invested in wanting Sabrina to get better and conquer her disorder that it was really hard to read when Alec tried to convince her that the doctors were the crazy ones and didn’t have her best interests at heart. I went back and forth between not wanting Sabrina to lose her world and wishing that she would just trust her doctor.
Overall I really enjoyed Life Is But a Dream. The writing is beautiful and it is a fascinating look at the world through the eyes of someone who has schizophrenia. I’ll definitely be watching for more from Brian James.