by Cat Winters
Read: October 8 - 14, 2014
Published: October 14, 2014 by Amulet Books
Source: NetGalley (THANK YOU!)
Tags: YA, Historical fiction, fantasy, hypnotism
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository
Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.
Like any good performer, The Cure for Dreaming presents itself well. The cover of the book is eye catching and a little bit creepy. The fonts are equally interesting and the sometimes odd historical photographs in the book add to the general atmosphere of a story that takes place in 1900 Oregon and combines suffragists with hypnotism. I also loved the opening scene, where heroine Olivia Mead gets called up on stage by mesmerist Henri Reverie to be hypnotized at a performance on Halloween. It's a strong start, but, unfortunately, as the stage lights dimmed, and I got a better look at story in the book, I found that what was underneath had lost its luster.
I had a few issues with this book, and the first is definitely more of a 'it's me, not you" situation. I have talked about this before, but I love fantasy and I love realistic fiction - including historical realistic fiction; however, sometimes I struggle when the two are combined without proper context. The Cure for Dreaming is mostly historical fiction about a girl who has become impassioned by the the women's rights, voting moment, while her traditional father wants to erase that dangerous part of her. But the story adds this hypnotism component that started off interesting and became a bit to fantastical for my tastes. I don't know a lot about mesmerism, but some of the things Olivia is made to do - and is able to see - while under hypnosis, was just too much for me to buy. While reading, I spent too much time wondering if plot elements were possible. For me, this book needed to go deeper into the historical fantasy direction, or stay in the bounds of more realistic historical fiction.
I didn't read this author's other book, and so maybe my expectations for this story were way off (i.e. my expectations were't based on any real fact, just my own suppositions), but I expected it to be creepier, and it never really got there for me. Olivia's father's behavior becomes pretty scary/crazy, but I also thought he didn't go far enough with it for the story to feel intense enough for me. I kept waiting for something bigger to happen, like a more serious villain than the general anti-suffragist population and handsy rich boys. The plot just felt a little scattered in the middle, and in the end, it wasn't really any big surprise how it all turned out. For me, this book didn't offer me anything better than other suffragist type books I've read, and because the hypnotism angle (and as you'll see, the romance,) didn't full work for me, the story as a whole fell flat.
Some spoilery thoughts regarding Olivia's mom:
I wanted to see Olivia struggle a bit more with going to live with a mother - a woman who left when Olivia was little and has only sent birthday cards since then. I can understand Olivia's curiosity about her mom, but I wish Olivia had been more conflicted about their relationship. There's a difference between wanting freedom for women and abandoning your daughter, and this book could have been more complex if it had explored those questions a little deeper.
I also didn't love the romance. It starts off with sort of a love triangle. Or actually, it has more of a love progression, or Decoy Boy. It's clear immediately that one of theses guys is a Bad Choice. Thankfully, it doesn't take Olivia too long to figure that out, and let the wrong one go. And that aspect of the story wasn't that threatening and didn't bother me. Unfortunately, I never really connected to Olivia's romance with Henri. The whole story takes place over a very short time, and I had trouble with the fact that Henri kept hypnotizing Olivia against her will. Though, there are bigger circumstances at play, and that does sound worse than it was. I just needed more to feel anything from them, and I wasn't emotionally roused by Henri's tragic life situations either. The romance isn't a huge element, and the end is more open, but what was here, didn't grab me.
However, I did get some good things from this book. The story made me re-prioritize reading Dracula. That's a classic that has been on my list forever, but I've never gotten to it. I'd like to do that soon during this fall season. Dracula is a theme in this story, and it made me want to read it ASAP. Secondly, I definitely want to do some more reading on the hypnotism movement. I hoped that the author would include a note about it, because I was especially curious about the bounds of what is possible under hypnotism. But I'm excited to do my own research, instead.
Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone