I was approached by this author on the release of the first two books in the Dreams series to audiobook. The premise holds with a pre-med student who suddenly realizes that she is tapping into the dreams of many others: including dreams that are violent and disturbing. While much of the dream sharing just gives Sara insight into her fellow students, some more unwelcome than others, she does need to find a way to both stop the dreams and keep herself and others safe.
Characters were fairly well developed, Sara as the protagonist does manage to explain some of her reasoning, as much of the story is in a stream of consciousness flow, it does devolve into tangents that are unrelated at best and distracting at worst. There are also several other characters introduced without any sort of development, they are serving as placeholders and never actually contribute to the story as it evolved. Ben, Sara’s love interest is a halfway likable character, although there is also a limited development of him beyond Sara’s perspective, and that makes their connection feel far more tenuous than I would have hoped.
Far from being suspenseful for me, I found the lack of focus and a clearer delineation between dream and reality sequences were unnecessarily muddy and didn’t serve the promise of the premise. There is a decided lack of focus to an endpoint, the stream of consciousness writing style seemed to take over the planning and plotting of the story and make the last half decidedly unsatisfactory with a climax that was less bang and more fizzle. Descriptions were often overwrought and overly wordy, repetitive words and thoughts became the norm, and this all contributed to a lack of necessary tension on the way to the resolution.
A highlight is the narration provided by Heather Jane Hogan, her voice fits a 20-something university student, and the inflections are perfectly suited to the character she is narrating, although I would have appreciated some additional change in pitch and tone to signify some emotional impact, sarcasm, questioning, etc. I can see the difficulties in balancing the story telling with imparting emotional intention to the words, as they do have several adjectives describing the emotion that the character is feeling without actually using words that would drive that emotional point home.
Most notably, this is a story that is workable, with a concept that is unusual and only needs some tightening of the style, the focus and the intent. Show not tell, and mentioning and introducing characters that are important and ignoring the rest would have made this story work better for me. Those who are not averse to a more rambling pathway to a conclusion will find this an interesting read, if not gripping.
Stars: Overall: 3 Narration: 4 Story 3
Title: Dream Student
Author: J.J. DiBenedetto
Genre: Contemporary Mystery
Narrator: Heather Jane Hogan
Published by: Self-Produced
Source: Audio Producer
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 33 minutes
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What would you do if you could see other people’s dreams? If you could watch their hidden fantasies and uncover their deepest, darkest secrets…without them ever knowing?
Sara Barnes is about to find out. She thought that all she had to worry about was final exams, Christmas shopping and deciding whether she likes the cute freshman in the next dorm who’s got a crush on her.
But when she starts seeing dreams that aren’t hers, she learns more than she ever wanted to know about her friends, her classmates…and a strange, terrifying man whose dreams could get Sara killed.
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A copy of this title was provided via Audio Producer for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.