BOOK REVIEW: THE CURE FOR DREAMING / AUTHOR: CAT WINTERS / PUBLISHER: AMULET BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 1ST
Following the critical acclaim of her debut novel (In the Shadow of Blackbirds), Cat Winter’s second effort The Cure for Dreaming blends fiction and myth with historical fact. A complex and satirical novel that is as much in the gothic tradition as it is young adult fiction. It begins with a quote from Dracula, which drapes the story within the Count’s blackened cape.
Set in Winter’s native Portland, Oregon in 1900, the plot follows 17-year-old Olivia Mead, pro-suffrage, and striving for a career in journalism. Her father, as much a personification of male ignorance and entitlement, has other plans. After attending a hypnosis show on her Halloween birthday, Olivia is put under hypnotist Henri Reverie’s spell on stage. Her father decides to pay Henri to quell Olivia’s rebellious suffragist ideals, to see the world for what it truly is and be unable to vocalise her anger. Olivia soon begins to see a vampire in the place of her father and cages that swallow ghosts of women.
The hypnotism, which progresses to vomiting upon hearing phrases alluding to women’s lib, is not unlike the Ludovico Technique in A Clockwork Orange. The two stories curiously share a key theme, taking away choice (read: humanity). It’s a concept brilliantly suited in the written word, as it deals with women denied their right to language.
The prose is efficient and doesn’t compromise on bite, effortlessly evoking the period setting. That’s not to say it isn’t without flaws, it does suffer from repetition and some clunky metaphor, but consistently imbues the text at every turn with the plight of the suffragists, capturing the sea change at the turn of the century. It’s not a pious novel, by any means, though sometimes it does wallop you upside the head.
Olivia is a fully realised character who loves to cycle (the bike being a powerful symbol of women’s liberation) and reading novels, specifically horror. Typical of her age, she’s shy, awkward, and full of yearning. Perhaps Winter’s greatest feat is making Olivia so easily relatable to modern audiences of either gender.
Appendices are included with a recommended reading list as well as the sequential dates of when and where US women gained full suffrage. The Cure for Dreaming proves the potential, relevance, and importance of YA fiction. It’s entertaining, educational and mystical. YA naysayers may have just met their match.