The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien
Pub. Date: September 16, 2014
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press!!)
Summary: Rosie Sinclair has staked all her dreams of becoming a filmmaker on succeeding at the prestigious Forge School of the Arts. The secret to the school’s success: every waking moment of the students’ lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students’ schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when Rosie skips her sleeping pill one night, she discovers that Forge itself is an experiment, with a hidden world behind the cameras, and dreams that are meant to inspire will also destroy.
Genre: YA, Mystery, Quasi-Dystopian
Recommended For: Readers of O’Brien’s Birthmarked trilogy, fans of boarding school tropes & little substance but a quick pace.
I read The Vault of Dreamers at the right place and the right time. This past week I was sick and despite its length (I wasn’t really into a 400+ page novel at the time) I grabbed it. This book was great for those moments when you want something to read, but don’t want to think. & the DayQuil probably helped.
Fifteen-year-old Rosie Sinclair comes from one of the poorest towns in the country. Her family lives in a converted boxcar and her only hope at making a better life for herself is to do well in school. Her little stepsister Dubbs is the only bright spot in her life and it’s a video Rosie made of her sister that earns her a chance to attend the most prestigious arts school in the country: Forge. Attending Forge means you’re also on Forge Show, a reality program that follows the students through every waking moment. Viewers tune into their favorite feeds and depending on the students’ ranks, companies can shell out some serious cash for advertisements.
In order to enhance their creativity, the students are given sleeping pills – they sleep for a full twelve hours per night. After Rosie notices odd scars on her arms, she skips a pill and discovers the school is a much different place at night. There’s something going on, something not right, and she’s determined to get to the bottom of it. The only problem? How can she tell anyone her plans when there are cameras on her at all times?
For such a long novel, there honestly wasn’t much going on in The Vault of Dreamers. Rosie attended class. Rosie met a cute boy. Each night she skips her sleeping pill and sneaks out to find out more. This repeats the entire book. I understand this was an early copy I was reading, but only the barest of bones had been laid out. I could see what O’Brien was going for, I saw where she wanted to go with this story, but the way she went about it left me unsatisfied. This is a novel that could have been fantastic, unfortunately, its execution just wasn’t there.
I also had a problem connecting with the characters. I didn’t like Rosie and couldn’t understand why she was doing the things she did. Linus? I wanted to like him, but in the end I realized I knew absolutely nothing about this boy – I don’t even know for sure who’s side he’s on! Their relationship was a joke, there was absolutely zero chemistry between these two. Early on in the novel another boy was introduced and I think he’s meant to be a second love interest (can’t have a YA series without a love triangle!) but that went nowhere. The rest of Rosie’s friends were little more than names and stock traits. For being on a reality show, you’d think these characters would be more compelling.
Keep in mind I read this while sick. The second half of the novel is a whirlwind of insanity. After the Big Reveal, all hell breaks loose and I was completely lost. I’m not sure if it was the book or the DayQuil, but I had no idea what was going on. Students were being mined and seeded, experiments on dead bodies, Rosie’s mom turns over her parental rights to the school’s dean. There’s so. much. going on, but no answers were given. Okay, maybe I can buy that O’Brien was setting it up for the next book, but you have to give the readers something. What was with the voice Rosie was hearing in her head? Who was that? What’s going on with Burnham? I need something to leave me happy with the end of this book, but also enough mystery to keep me curious enough for the sequel.
While The Vault of Dreamers wasn’t a great book, I was entertained while it lasted and it did the job it set out to do. Hopefully the finished copy has been tightened up – O’Brien had some interesting ideas, but they needed serious work. Also, I’m not sure why the novel was set in 2066. If Rosie hadn’t mentioned the date I would have assumed it was set in the present day. There was absolutely nothing that would even hint at a future date. So while I enjoyed my time with it, I’m worried I wouldn’t like it if I had read it clear-headed. If anything, The Vault of Dreamers will become a guilty pleasure novel