This is book 4/12 for the YA Reading Challenge.
Summary: Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.
Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.
As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.
His life depends on it.
My Review: I'm a huge Poe fan, so that alone and it's integration into the storyline made me quite happy. Aside from that, the book introduces two interesting main characters in Isobel and Varen, very different in many ways, and interesting to read about when they're together. The problem falls into two areas: 1) the remainder of the characters, aside from Gwen, are highly unlikeable (and I'm not talking about the scary monster sorts) and 2) the rush at the end to establish everything that has become of Varen and what he brought Isobel into. It's another one of those cases where it seems quite clear that the author planned for a sequel and it felt, at least to me, that it took a lot of time to set things up and then BAM-rush-right-into-action-at-the-end.
I really did like Isobel and Varen though. I love that Isobel is (was) popular, but still had a sense of right-and-wrong-lines-you-don't-cross. I love that she had a good relationship with her parents and most of the time she didn't pretend or act ashamed of who she was (to Varen or to her friends). And I love that book has set up a great chance for the girl to be the one who rescues the boy (and I don't just mean emotionally).
And despite the flaws I did see in the book, it was still an enjoyable, fast read, the sort that makes you want to keep reading because you need to know what's going on and understand it.
Overall: 4 stars