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River Kay And The Dream Secret (2013)

by Shawn Otomo(Favorite Author)
4.29 of 5 Votes: 2
1492399736 (ISBN13: 9781492399735)
The Dream Chronicles
review 1: Fans of the HARRY POTTER novels should enjoy Shawn Otomo’s RIVER KAY AND THE DREAM SECRET. As in the POTTER books, Otomo’s story revolves around a young protagonist who discovers that she possesses secret powers that enable her to live in a magical world quite separate from the everyday world she’s used to. Seventh grader River Kay isn’t a witch or a wizard, but she’s a “Dreamwalker,” meaning she has the ability to travel from the waking world (or “Wokenworld,” as Otomo calls it) to the Dreamworld at will. Unfortunately, River discovers that a war has broken out between the Order of Dreamwalkers and a renegade group calling itself the “Darkstalkers.” The Darkstalkers are determined to manipulate the Wokenworld by gaining control over as many Dream... morewalkers as they can. And as River finds out, she and her mother are targets of this evil group. Can River learn to control her own powers so that she can help her mother elude capture? Or are the Darkstalkers too powerful to be overcome?River Kay is a 7th grader who wakes up one day to discover she can see people’s dreams – they appear to her in mysterious bubbles floating over people’s heads, bubbles filled with images from the Dreamworld. The only people whose dreams River can’t read are her parents (she has no clue why) and a new boy in school, Harper Oran. When her mother suddenly appears to her in a dream to warn her about the evil Darkstalkers, she is at first confused and afraid. But later, she discovers that there are people who can help train her to use her Dreamwalking skills to help her mother – and the rest of the Dreamworld. She’s just not sure who she can trust.As the first in a planned series, RIVER KAY AND THE DREAM SECRET doesn’t provide answers to all the mysteries and questions posed, nor should readers expect a nicely wrapped up ending. But the novel does clearly set out a central battle between good and evil, and sets up future stories in intriguing ways. The relationship between River and Harper is complex and interesting – there are hints of teenage romantic attraction, but mainly River struggles with Harper’s annoying smugness and his insistence on calling her “C.M” (Crazy Monkey). She seems to enjoy shoulder punching Harper to keep him in line, or giving him a few neck pinches from time to time. Theirs is certainly a love-hate relationship! River is feisty, courageous, and willing to risk everything to help her mom and the Order of Dreamwalkers – she is definitely a female heroine worth rooting for.On a more critical note, RIVER KAY could use a good editor. There are some typos, as well as some fairly obvious grammatical errors, but the biggest problem is wordiness – there’s just too much exposition, especially in the first quarter of the novel. Some of this is because Otomo is trying to explain a lot of complicated things to his readers, but there are better ways to do it than through long paragraphs of exposition. This is a book meant for the Middle Grade market (generally ages 8-12), and the long expository passages really slow down the pace. Younger readers might have trouble sticking with the early chapters. But I will suggest that the story does eventually take off, and the final chapters are worth waiting for.Overall, Otomo has a really good idea here – what’s not to like about a young girl who can move between worlds, especially when a battle for good over evil is at stake? There’s also a lot more story to tell, which means future installments are certainly in the works. Young fantasy fans (especially girls) will like River and identify with her conflicting feelings about her parents, her friends, and her blossoming talent as a Dreamwalker. Parents, this novel is totally acceptable for readers ages 8-12 – there is no offensive language, no sexual situations, and no graphic violence. Anyone going through Harry Potter withdrawal should give RIVER KAY AND THE DREAM SECRET a look.[Please note: I was provided a copy of this novel for review; the opinions expressed here are my own.]
review 2: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. And, considering that I am far from the target audience for this type of story, I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Engaging characters, existential concepts and fascinatingly imaginative dream scenarios made this a hard book to put down. The plot was straightforward but still intriguing and fast-paced. The only complaint I have, and the reason I was reluctant to give it 5 stars, was the dialogue between the teenage characters. The attempted humour felt a bit forced at times and some of the terms and phrases didn’t quite ring true for modern teens. The dialogue involving the adults, on the other hand, was very clear and smooth.Overall, the images described are extremely creative and the characters both interesting and likeable, making this book an excellent starting point for what promises to be a compelling fantasy series. less
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