Review: The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams by Jeff Russell


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams
Author: Jeff Russell
Genre: Thriller
Release date: September 30th, 2015

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What if a person could live in their dreams? What if the power of imagination could erase the inequities of life? The staff at Eden Perpetual Life Care makes that possible and Katrina Hammond turns to them when nothing else can ease the pain of her mother’s progressive illness. The residents of Eden live in a medically-induced dream state, a fantasy world based on their secret desires. They are freed from the torments of their physical existence but at a terrible price, for where her mother goes Kat cannot follow. When Eden offers Kat the position of in-house neurologist, letting her pursue her vocation while watching over her mother’s dreams, she reluctantly agrees. And when investigative reporter Morgan Brewer shows Kat what it means to be young and alive her own dreams start coming true.

But dreams are not always what they seem. An anomaly in the brainwave patterns of some residents suggests subconscious distress, and when Kat defies management’s order not to probe deeper she discovers something sinister taking place behind the pristine walls of Eden. Unsure of what to believe or who to trust she must now find a way to rescue her mother and the other residents before she herself becomes trapped in their perpetual nightmare.

The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams holds an interesting premise: What if we can live on in our dreams? An idea that reminded me a bit of Black Mirror’s San Junipero. Though I loved that concept and appreciated how realistic the author made it sound, the novel failed to develop all the other aspects I was interested in.

Sometimes accepting the impossible is easier than trying to explain it. Accepting allows us to move on.

The novel started off strong, with good writing, some mysteries and a lot of potential for character growth. However, as the book carried along, I saw some of these aspects being dragged out without much really altering. It also baffled me that a scene early on revealed a part of the story that should have remained a mystery. I was left with a clueless main character trying to figure out something I already knew.

It didn’t help that I couldn’t connect with Kat. I appreciated that she was a dedicated doctor who wanted to do the right thing and be careful, but that also made her naive. She started out as realistically insecure, but her fear of confronting those in power and her lack of self-confidence became repetitive and ultimately stunted her growth.

Also, she threw a slut-shaming comment at the beginning of the novel that didn’t sit well with me at all. Clothes are not an invitation for disrespect or hateful comments:

Kat brushed it off, acknowledging that those who dress to attract attention should not complain when they receive it.

As I said before, things became repetitive after the first part. The medical processes were explained with detail time and time again, which could have being avoided. Then, when the plot was wrapping up, it went by too fast. I would have liked more time dedicated to the ending.

What I enjoyed about this novel were the themes – dreams, immortality and afterlife. The controversy they spark is definitely worth discussing. It helped me imagine what would happen if a process like the one in the novel is introduced in real life. My only concern comes from the characters with disabilities. Kat’s mom sacrifices herself for her daughter, which is something hearbreaking but understandable coming from a mother. My problem here was that she viewed herself as an inconvinience because of her chronic illness and neither Kat nor the narrative disputed her on that.

The human quest for immortality. The body can’t last forever and so we calm our fears by believing that the conscious entity lives on.

Overall, it’s a novel with very interesting themes, but that suffers from over-exposition at times. Also, the characters never truly engaged me, but if you are interested in the themes and in medical thrillers that don’t shy away from detailing the science, check this one out.

10 thoughts on “Review: The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams by Jeff Russell

  1. Oh my god, the slut-shaming would INFURIATE me. I’m getting all ragey just reading your tiny excerpt of it. Sounds like this book is a major nope for me, even if that’s the only instance of slut-shaming. I’m even more grossed out because a male author wrote this; it’d possibly a sad case of internalized misogyny if this were a female author, but it’s just absolutely disgusting coming from a male author.

    I think I need to go eat a cookie or something to get this awful taste out of my mouth. Bah.

    Thank you for the warning! I’ll steer clear of this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was really upsetting reading that part. I kept going to see if it was going to be challenged and it wasn’t. It was reinforced with how the character who got slut-shamed got treated all throughout the novel (by other characters and by the narration itself). It didn’t actually affect the story, but it definitely changed the way I saw the main character and, ultimately, the author. Thanks for your comment, Liam. I thought I might be overreacting with how upset I got over that quote, but your comment made me realize I’m not alone in this! Please enjoy your cookie 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, man, that’s even worse. And the NARRATOR got involved in the slut-shaming? Okay, I think this author is on my Never To Read list. I just can’t.

        You’re definitely not overreacting, and not alone! If you ever need someone to rage about misogyny in your books, you just let me know. I (and my post-rage cookies) are here for you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, it was a third person narration, so whenever there were descriptions of the character who got slut-shamed, they were clearly done to make the character seem inadequate for dressing in a revealing way.
        Haha, thank you so much ❤ I'll take you up on that if I encounter something like this again! 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly yikes. When I read that slut-shaming comment, I literally gasped and shook my head. I don’t understand why authors throw those kinds of things in. A book I read a while ago basically demonized all blonde women because the character’s father left her mom for one, made negative body-image comments, and was overall embarrassing and disgusting. It’s even worse that it was the narrator doing that, very disappointing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow! That sounds terrible :O I couldn’t have finished that book. The worse part is that you can no longer separate the main character from the author, because things like that simply reflect the writer’s prejudice or ignorance. Hopefully reviews can be a path towards learning that this type of comments are harmful and wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

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