Initially, I expected Caragh M. O’Brien’s The Vault of Dreamers to be a typical YA dystopian tale, given the school setting and reality show set up of the Forge School. As Rosie got more entrenched in ferreting out the school’s secrets, I realized the book was a study about the nature of dreams and the human mind; however, the sudden shift in tone between the first and second parts of the novel threw me off a little, and while I wanted to know the results of Rosie’s investigations, I never anticipated the dark turn of some plot lines.
Rosie’s relationships with other characters throughout The Vault of Dreamers felt a bit haphazard and partially formed with the exception of her close bond with her younger half-sister, Dubbs. While she needed Linus to make it through the Fifty Cuts, it was hard for me to fully believe that anything real could come out of their sudden bond. The awkward teen romance left me cold, largely because it seemed so forced for the cameras rather than organic. Similarly, her relationship with other students felt like a means to an end rather than true friendships. For example, Rosie needed to develop dialogue with Burnham to learn about the nature of the sleeping pills, but their interactions seemed so brief that I didn’t believe the friendship came out of anything beyond proximity. Some characters were introduced so briefly that they seemed superfluous, although a few of those turned out to be pieces in a much larger puzzle. Ultimately, even with alleged friendships and relationships, Rosie floated through the story like a solitary island, which I found unnerving with the supposed connections she was creating.
The concept of the Forge School intrigued me, though: an academy devoted to helping creative individuals reach their highest potential. The reality show aspect repulsed me, because I thought it would deter truly talented but introverted individuals, but it made the school unique. The idea that forced twelve-hour sleep cycles would increase creativity interested me as well, especially as it became clear that the purpose of the Forge School was much darker than nurturing and developing creativity.
The last portion of The Vault of Dreamers took the story down a path I never suspected in the opening chapters, and the ending left me feeling empty inside. Rather than just exploring the ethics of using broadcasting to push excellence, the story started examining the nature of dreams and the human mind, as well as how fragile the brain can be. Truthfully, it’s the better part of the book, but it’s not entirely comfortable to read. It made me consider my own thoughts, dreams, and motivations and what molds and influences them.
Overall, The Vault of Dreamers is easy to read, but it may take time to process the bigger ideas the plot presents. It’s not a book that will appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy material about ownership of what’s in your brain and how creativity is nurtured, this will be exactly what you want.
4 Hidden Cameras in a Dorm Closet out of 5