Book Review: Dream Student by J. J. DiBenedetto

Between studying for finals and spending time with her new boyfriend, Sara Barnes has more than enough on her plate at the end of the semester. Then she begins to see dreams that aren’t her own. Apart from learning rather awkward details about her friends, Sara doesn’t see any harm in them. But suddenly a man’s dream invades her sleep, and what she witnesses terrifies Sara to her very core. Now Sara must figure out whose dream this is and how to stop him from doing it again.

The premise of Dream Student convinced me to choose this book. It’s a great idea for a novel: a college student intercepts the dreams of a madman. There is a huge promise of suspense and drama that will keep the reader turning each page to find out what’ll happen to Sara and her friends. Unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver.

I struggled to get through this book. The biggest issue was that it lacked tension throughout. Tension occurs initially when Sara begins having the dreams. But it drops off pretty quickly before the midpoint, and the story shifts almost exclusively to the relationship between Sara and her boyfriend for a while. Even the chapters leading up to the climax fall flat  because the suspense and tension has been ignored for so long.

On top of that, the writing frustrated me. The narrator–Sara–would tell the reader information rather than show it. It seemed like the author was afraid that the reader wouldn’t pick up on important things on their own. There is also no satisfactory explanation given as to why the main character has a sudden personality shift when she meets her boyfriend. A shy, quiet girl all of a sudden becomes outspoken and brave when she starts dating him. I don’t quite buy that the relationship changed her that much, even if it was love at first sight.

I had a hard time with the prologue as well. It felt like an information dump, giving the reader facts the author thought they needed before reading the story. I was confused reading it since I didn’t know or have a relationship with any of the characters. It was also the only time that the boyfriend narrates a scene in the entire book. The opening pages of the book establish the world and the parameters of who will be narrating. That one-time scene breaks the implied contract with the reader.

This book is geared toward young adult readers and is the first in a trilogy. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Rating: one of five stars

Dream Student by J. J. DiBenedetto is published by the author and is available as an eBook.

*I received a copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.

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