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Dreamquest: A Tale of Slumberia    by Brent Hartinger Amazon.com order for
Dreamquest
by Brent Hartinger
Order:  USA  Can
Starscape, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Brent Hartinger has made a name for himself in young adult realistic fiction. With this new series, Tales of Slumberia, he is branching into a different genre for a younger age group. Dreamquest, his first fantasy for middle-readers, is very different from all his previous works.

Eleven-year-old Julie Fray is completely stressed-out; her parents will not stop arguing and putting her in the middle. Every night, Julie has nightmares in which she is an object over which her parents are fighting. One night, when her stress catches up with her bad dreams, she slips through a hole between her consciences into the land of Slumberia, a very different world from the one Julie is used to. In it, metal birds deliver messages, glowworms provide light sources, and the sun never rises. What is more, Slumberia is where Julie's nightmares are produced.

Julie realizes that there might be a solution to her sleeping problem she just needs to find whoever is in charge of creating her dreams and tell them to start giving her good ones again. However, she's in a race against time: the hole she slipped through will be closed by the end of one moon cycle - the equivalent of one day. Julie sets off on a quest across Slumberia to meet the dream-producing bigwigs, acquiring many new friends along the way. Unfortunately, she makes enemies, too particularly Vivian, the self-centered actress who plays Julie in her dreams and who has now taken Julie's place in her waking life. Julie must stop her nightmares and wake up before Vivian ruins her life.

Like most protagonists in books for this age group, Julie gets in touch with the inner strength needed to solve her problems. She also makes true friends along the way, who are willing to do anything for her - and her for them - thus strengthening her character even more. Julie's problem with her parents is a situation that many kids find themselves in, helping to make her a realistic and identifiable character.

Hartinger keeps Dreamquest short and sweet, which is great for preteen readers as it keeps them engaged by keeping the story moving. And he never bogs down the story line with extraneous exposition. However, he has created such an imaginative world in Slumberia, that I wished Julie's adventure there was not over so quickly. I can't wait to read the next in the Tales of Slumberia so I can spend more time in this creative land.

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