Title: The Vault of Dreamers
Author: Caragh M. O’Brien
Published: September 16, 2014
Genre: YA Dystopian, Science Fiction
From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.
The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students’ lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students’ schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What’s worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.
A truly chilling dystopian from an established YA author, Caragh M. O’Brien’s The Vault of Dreamers has been one of my favorite reads this fall. I featured this one as a #WaitingonWednesday pick a while back, and it was definitely worth the wait!
The Forge School is a distinguished school of the arts where the most creative, talented students in the country can study their art of choice—as long as they agree to the rules. 1. They must be a part of the Forge Show during all waking hours. 2. They must take their sleep medication and adhere to a strict sleep schedule of twelve hours per night to enhance their creativity. However, Rosie Sinclair misses the night, and when she skips her sleeping pill to experience it again, she begins to suspect that the Forge School isn’t just an art school.
The Vault of Dreamers was very enjoyable; it was a fast-paced read, and I was very quickly sucked into the world of the Forge School. Rosie discovers some truly creepy things that go on at the Forge School while the students are dreaming, but she’s not sure how to prove it to anyone. Without giving away spoilers, this book left me questioning whether Rosie was sane, dreaming, or crazy. I experienced something similar while watching the movie Shutter Island with Leonardo DiCaprio (if you’ve ever seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about).
I really liked O’Brien’s characterization of Rosie. She’s a film student from a poor town in Arizona. Rosie’s mother is caring but too preoccupied trying to put food on the table to notice that her stepfather is abusive. The only person in her family that Rosie really connects with is her seven-year-old sister, Dubbs, who inspired her to attend the Forge School. Her disadvantaged background has made her somewhat aloof from her fellow students at first, but she’s very concerned with helping others and willing to stick up for anyone being mistreated. Her mother’s hands-off parenting style has also made her fiercely independent; she treats the Forge School’s rules like something to be bent right from the beginning.
The only things that I really felt like it was lacking were a better-developed romance and more content in terms of art. I’ll focus on the romance first, because that was a bigger issue for me. I felt like the romantic connection between Liam and Rosie was pretty weak; I didn’t really expect them to last when they first met. Their relationship had elements of instalove, which is always frustrating, but I just didn’t really sense that there was any romantic tension between them. I actually felt more tension between Rosie and Burnham. Maybe O’Brien was trying to go for the love triangle, but it just wasn’t executed properly?
In terms of artistic content, because these kids are at art school, they’re supposed to live and breathe their art. I didn’t really get that vibe about most of them—it seemed like more of a casual hobby at best. Rosie makes some mention of seeing things as if through a camera lens, etc., but they came off as passing remarks, not as part of her intrinsic being.
Overall, my praises definitely outweigh my complaints; my complaints didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the book. The Vault of Dreamers was incredibly spooky, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for YA dystopian, science fiction, or psychological thriller. It’s a perfect read to get in the mood for Halloween! I would give The Vault of Dreamers four out of five stars. If you loved this book, rest assured that Caragh O’Brien has said that she is working on a sequel!