The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
Release Date: January 15, 2019
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪.5
I whipped through this book much faster than I anticipated. From the first few chapters, I was thoroughly intrigued. The plot is like nothing I had ever read before, a sort of dystopian tale that didn’t hit you over the head with typical genre tropes. The story opens by depicting the beginning of a strange illness in a college dorm. Mei, a freshman, is the character the reader is connected with most right off the bat. Her roommate is the first to fall ill with the sleeping sickness, which is just that — individuals fall asleep and simply don’t wake up.
As the story progresses, we are introduced to more and more characters, and come to understand their background and how they may have been, or may be exposed. There’s a set of young sisters, whose father has been preparing them for the apocalypse for their whole lives– with the basement stocked full of all the supplies the girls end up needing when he falls ill. There’s a young couple with a brand new baby, a nurse with a toddler at home, and always, Mei and Matthew, who escape the quarantine their entire dorm floor is put into, and set about helping transport the sick to the hospital. Slowly, one by one, almost every single character falls asleep.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the abundance of characters. Walker did an incredible job making each little family or friend unit believable, unique, and interesting and with each one, I was left waiting for the other shoe to drop. Who would fall sick, and when? I also appreciated that there wasn’t a lot of medical focus within these pages. Although there are plenty of scenes at, or focused on the hospital, the story doesn’t get caught up in details of what the doctors or nurses are thinking about the sickness, or what they’re doing to look for a cure.
I can definitely see how this story could be polarizing. Despite my general enjoyment, and the speed at which I finished it, it was a slow burn plot-wise. In fact, there’s really not much that happens. You get to know characters, and then slowly see how the sickness makes its way to them. There aren’t any real plot twists or surprises, and I was left thinking something along the lines of what was the point of reading that? But at the same time, I did like it. Overall, if you’re looking for something fast-paced and plot-driven, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for more of a character driven narrative that’s a little different, Dreamers is definitely worth a try.