Durst, Sarah Beth. The Girl Who Could Not Dream. 384p. Clarion. Nov. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544464971.
Gr 4-6–Middle school is rough even for ordinary kids, but Sophie is anything but ordinary. For one thing, her parents run a secret underground shop, where they distill, bottle, and sell dreams. Sophie herself has a special power that allows her to bring elements of the dream realm into the real world with her. Worries about getting her homework done and not having anyone to sit with at lunch are overshadowed by the imminent threat that she and her parents will be discovered by the Night Watchmen, a secret police force who prohibit dream-trading. Sophie isolates herself from her peers in order to keep the secrets of the dream shop safe, and her only companion is a wise-cracking, fierce, and furry monster that she brought out a dream to be her friend. Sophie’s carefully constructed world falls apart when a strange man appears at the shop and then her parents disappear, at the same time as two kids who are connected to the dream shop go missing. To rescue them, Sophie joins forces with Ethan, a friendly boy from school who is troubled by nightmares (yet surprisingly accepting of the wholly strange turn of events.) Along the way, a wild cast of characters helps Ethan and Sophie summon the strength to take on those who would use the power of dreams for evil. Frequent allusions to Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, and A Wrinkle in Time pay homage to those classic fantasy novels. The book is self-aware, playing with common fantasy tropes, thus reinvigorating the familiar underlying story of a loner having to learn to overcome her fears to save the ones she loves. Vocabulary lessons are dispensed intermittently, such as when Monster urges Sophie to “think pugnacious thoughts,” or when Sophie is told that an event was “an aberration.” A sort of overprotective, curmudgeonly Cheshire Cat, Sophie’s monster (named Monster) steals the show with his witty one-liners and interjections of dry humor. Overall, a fun, fast read with broad appeal. VERDICT This is a first-purchase that is suited to reluctant readers as well as fans of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or Colin Meloy’s“The Wildwood Chronicles” (HarperCollins).–Tara Kron, School Library Journal
This review was published in School Library Journal‘s July 2015 issue.