Dreamland Burning – written by Jennifer Latham

       Dreamland Burning – written by Jennifer Latham, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316384933, 2017

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Historical fiction, Contemporary fiction

What did you like about the book?  Rowan and William tell two shocking stories from two different centuries, but their tales intertwine as harsh truths from the past and present begin to surface.  Rowan is an intern at a local clinic in Tulsa, but her summer is quickly being consumed with solving the mystery of a century-old skeleton discovered in her backyard.  Her narrative alternates with William’s perspective, a boy living in 1921 Tulsa; as tensions climb towards what we now call the Tulsa Race Riot, William must decide which side he is on and what to do about his decision.  Both come to discover the imperfections in their society, bringing to light the history of a turbulent time and the problems that still exist even today.

Latham expertly weaves these two perspectives together to present a mystery and drama that moves at a fast pace.  The voices of her narrators are distinct, matching not only their time period, but their experiences, creating two unique and engaging characters.  Neither story shies away from the issues of racism and social inequality, exposing the reader to gritty truths and parallels between Rowan and William’s times.  This is a gripping read that has a chance to open minds by presenting these scenarios to the reader; as William and Rowan consider their actions and reflect on their choices, readers have a chance to do the same.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Everything fit perfectly; no complaints.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This will be a great recommendation for those seeking  either a historical fiction or a mystery.  Fans of Reynolds’s “All American Boys” or other books that explore racial tensions (a rising trend in many YA acquisitions and collections) will certainly enjoy the perspectives presented in Latham’s book.

Who should buy this book? High school and public library collections

Where would you shelve it ? Young Adult Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes!  This explores a dark piece of history, but tells the story in a way that makes it clear we still need to grow as a society, that even one person can make a difference in the continuous struggle for equality. Latham’s book is a hidden gem that should get much more exposure.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Melissa McCleary, Pembroke Public Library, Pembroke, MA

Date of reviewMarch 12, 2017

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