The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I didn't expect much from this novel when I first requested it, but I needed something to read, and I really liked the cover. Oh, yes, cover art is more influential than we like to acknowledge. Certainly, most bloggers often like to mention the cover art and will admit to some influence, but cover art can make or break a book for me. There are some excellent books that I've never read because I didn't like the cover. And the opposite is also true.
Surprise! I found myself engrossed in The Vault of Dreamers almost immediately and literally had to force myself to put it down because my eyes were too tired to read anymore.
Of course, for every reader the experience is different, but one of the miracles of story-telling occurs when the author catapults you into the world they've created, and you just accept whatever is going on regardless of how impossible, unreal, or fantastic.
From the book description: 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.Hmmm, I thought when I read that. Sounds like a familiar plot line to me. Another YA novel that will be predictable.
Of course, there is some predictability, I mean "there's nothing new under the sun" and any popular trope is going to used again and again.
Nevertheless, the author quickly engaged my interest in the characters and the more I read, the more I wanted to know. Classes, lunch, the entire campus--everything except bathrooms and the sleeping/dressing rooms is on camera. Every activity, every conversation. Privacy is next to impossible. How much is behavior influenced by the cameras?
Rosie is a great little protagonist; her talent at this school for the talented involves film, and she frequently thinks in terms of movie scripts, solving problems based on films she has seen or that she wants to create. From a family with no money to spare, attending an arts school like The Forge is an amazing opportunity, and perhaps her only one if she wants a career in film.
Unfortunately, there will be a cut and students who don't make the cut will be sent home. The cut is determined much like on other reality shows--audience interest. In this case, the audience can choose to follow any students they find interesting. Rosie's "blip scores" aren't nearly good enough, and she pretty much accepts her fate. Like it or not, she expects to be sent home.
Of course, you know what will happen: her blip scores will increase drastically (but why?), and Rosie will stay at the school (but is that a good thing or is it terribly dangerous?).
Nothing in the NetGalley description indicated that this was not a stand-alone, but I should have realized that the trend to trilogies/series is really pretty much a fait accompli. I bet the statistics would show that more fiction is written as series than as stand-alones--at least in fantasy, science fiction, and YA novels.
The frustration of a novel that you have raced through--only to end in a cliff-hanger! Ms. O'Brien, please write quickly...!
I haven't read O'Brien's Birthmarked trilogy, but it is now on my radar.
Read in June; blog review scheduled for Aug. 20, 2014.
NetGalley/Macmillan's Children's Publ./Roaring Brook Press
Science Fiction/Fantasy. Sept. 16, 2014. Print version: 432 pages.