Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review of Dream School by Blake Nelson

Dream School picks up exactly where Girl left off, with Andrea Marr on a plane on the way to Wellington, her number one choice for college. Andrea has high hopes for the coming four years, and for the person they will turn her into. But at Wellington, Andrea finds a population of rich, majority white students, most of whom are not interested in her wild experiences as a part of the Portland alternative music scene.

As someone who also had high hopes for college, and who ended up at a school that was very different from what I envisioned, I can relate. The thing that adults don’t tell you when they are busy reassuring you that college will be better than high school is that college is not instantaneously amazing. It takes time to find a group of friends who you can look at and say “They get me and I get them.”

Andrea spends that adjustment period trying new drugs, getting drunk, sleeping with boys, having an epic meltdown in her dorm’s shower, and trying to pass her classes. She reports all these events to us in the confessional, flowing style that I know and love from Girl. It feels like this book is a journal from Andrea’s past that she is letting us read.

The author, Blake Nelson, has this neat trick of writing about the events of Andrea’s life as if they are rushing past while she stands at the center, unmoving, and not knowing quite what to make of it all. And then suddenly Andrea will make a precise and moving insight, and you feel that you are in that moment with her, briefly slowing down to live in one still moment were everything looks clear, before life rushes along once again.

Check out this description from Dream School of Andrea’s campus and you’ll see what I mean:

“But even that became sort of magical: the cold, the dark, the silent campus. It was like there were ghosts around me, the ghosts of people’s youth, of their innocence, of all the things they had done to make themselves not children anymore.”

And definitely check out both Girl and Dream School. Read them back to back and don’t come up for air. And then read them again, and again.

PS I read Dream School on my Kindle, so I don’t have a page number for that quotation, but it’s at 15%, locations 496–98.

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