Title: Dickensen Academy
Author: Christine Grabowski
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: 2018
High school brings a lot of change and uncertainty but for 15-year-old Autumn Mattison, the start of her freshman year introduces more than just new teachers and new friends. After an invitation-only application and summer filled with testing and interviews, Autumn is surprised to be accepted at Dickensen Academy. Nestled in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the remote location ensures few distractions, spotty cell-service, and some distance from the high expectations of her father.
Swept in the usual courses of Algebra, Science, and Language Arts, Autumn makes connections with her roommate Adita and Ben, the boy she met at the summer testing. The students however quickly realize that there is much more to their fine arts education than painting and writing. Creative Core presents challenges beyond students honing their artistic and creative skills; it shows them the power of dreams. Soon, their educational classes take on greater depth with incredible experiences through their field trips, and a world of possibilities opens up. Yet, when the line between reality and memory becomes blurred, sometimes dreams become nightmares.
Autumn and her friends begin to question why freshman aren’t allowed to leave campus, what happens to students who cannot master the skills, and what does the Fence keep out . . . or in. When a devasting accident occurs, Autumn must decide what matters most to her and whether her abilities truly can be deemed worthy as a student of Dickensen Academy.
I received an advanced copy of this book and really enjoyed the story. What most intrigued me was how magical the books were without the use of magic. The power of dreams and thoughts presents a wealth of options for insight and reflections, but Grabowski has taken them one step further and applies their usage to educational experiences. Often times, however, I was unclear as to whether the actions and events were real or part of a dream. It was this uncertainty that fueled my imagination and created a captivating story.
I really liked how the power of perception and memory conflicted and made the reader uncertain about what was real and if the characters could really be trusted. Although the book is not a thriller in the traditional sense, this element of uncertainty can play tricks on the reader and force them to question their perception and understanding in their own lives. I think this would be a great book for students with a science interest; the cognitive power and ability to manipulate the human brain opens the door for discussion about brain research, the trustworthiness of memory, and the ethics of control.
Who might like this book:
Dickensen Academy will appeal to middle school readers, as they can relate to the stress of school, the pressures of family expectations, the uncertainty of friendships, and the flutter of a first crush. Fantasy novels are so popular with young adult readers; this book asks them to view the magic in themselves. This unique perspective may encourage young readers to consider the powers that they possess themselves.
I hope this book will be the first of a series as I feel that there is much more that can be explored with the power of dreams in many future adventures for these characters. This book is available on September 12, 2018.