Review - The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Vault of Dreamers
By Caragh M. O'Brien 
Released: September 16, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Advanced Reader Copy

Dreams have always been source of mystery for mankind. There have been theories surrounding the nightly visions for hundreds of years, if not more, as well as countless studies from various disciplines – form cognitive psychology to biology. Yet, despite all the studies, dreams remain elusive and secretive. Every one of us dreams. Sometimes we remember them upon waking and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes they take us on grand adventures, other times they’re just a collection of images thrown together by our subconscious. Either way, they are our dreams. No one but us know the darkest desires we have and what we dream. But what if someone found a way to see them? To get inside your head and taken them without your approval? This is the exciting premise of The Vault of Dreamers.

Rosie Sinclair is a fifteen year old filmmaker from Doli, Arizona, a dirt poor town with little opportunity. In a stroke of luck, Rosie is selected to receive a scholarship to study filmmaking at the prestigious Forge Academy – an art school for talented and creative artists of all types. But the Forge School isn’t your run-of-the-mill art school. It’s also one of the most popular reality TV shows on the air. Cameras are placed all over the school and the students are on air nearly every waking moment of the day. Students’ popularity is directly linked to the numbers of viewers who watch their feed and with higher number of viewers comes marketing opportunities and big money to help with their future endeavors.

And if being on live TV wasn’t enough, the school also has a strict policy on sleeping – every student must be in bed by six in the evening and sleep twelve hours until six the following morning. At night, the students are always given sleeping pills to help them drift off. This practice, the school claims, helps peak creativity. But when Rosie skips the nightly pill one evening, she suddenly discovers that something unseemly is going on at night. Kids are being fed drugs through IVs, are wheeled out of their dorms at night, and – worst of all – Rosie knows it’s happened to her at least once.

The majority of the book deals with the mystery surrounding the Forge School. After investigation – which included her sneaking out of bed, going to off-limit sectors of the school, stealing swipe cards and what have you – she determines that kids’ dreams are being “mined.” In other words, they’re being drugged and their mind is sorted through against their will.

There is something unsettling and decidedly creepy about this entire concept. And that is why I found this book so fascinating! We want to feel safe in the confines of our sleep; we believe in the sanctity of our dreams – that they are ours and no one can touch them. So, when we are threatened at our most vulnerable – while we’re fast asleep – we feel violated. Rosie goes through all these mixed feelings and more. I can feel her terror throughout the entire narrative and I sympathize with her.

So, why are these evil people mining dreams you might ask? There’s a very detailed chapter dedicated to the reasoning behind it. I don’t want to give away too much, as I want to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, but it dealt with helping coma victims. I was very impressed with Ms. O’Brien’s theories behind it. Now, I majored in archaeology in college, so I have no way of knowing if the biological theories behind the whole dream mining is completely legitimate – but from what I read it was certainly a clever theory and leaves the reader wondering if something like this could, indeed, happen in the distant future. It was so creepy!

As Rosie digs deeper and deeper into the secrets surrounding the Forge School, her grip on reality starts to slip. The story is told from the first person point of view, making her questioning of her own sanity all the more entrancing for the reader. In an attempt to document what it going on behind the scenes at the school, Rosie tries to record the nightly secretive activity, only to find that every time she looks back on the footage, it’s either been erased or tampered with. Is someone really taking her camera when she isn’t looking? Did she really see what she thought she saw? Did she dream up the entire dream “mining” idea or is she simply crazy? With friends and foes both questioning her, we are right there with Rosie as the tries to maneuver through all these feelings. O’Brien’s pacing with part of the novel was pitch perfect! There were some chapters that I was wondering myself if Rosie was a reliable narrator and if I could trust what she saw.

Add to this creepy plot some interesting side characters and a dash of romance and – viola! You have everything you could ever ask for in a compelling, young adult read. The only problem I had with the entire book was the ending – Gosh, that ending! The Young Adult genre as a whole, I fear, is certainly suffering from “AED” or what I like to call, “Abrupt Ending Disorder.” I felt as if the last few chapters had been left out of my ARC and there were too many questions left unanswered. As a stand-alone novel, the ending definitely left something to be desired. But I dearly hope that Ms. O’Brien decides to give us a sequel to at least tie up the loose ends.

Nonetheless, The Vault of Dreamers is an eerie and captivating read and, despite the irritating ending, I highly recommend you pick it up come September 2014!


  1. I hadn't heard too much about this book, but it sounds really good!

    Amber @ The Book Cookies

  2. Reminds me of The Matrix. :) Love unreliable narrators!

  3. Thanks, guys! It definitely was a great read! I was a little reluctant, because I couldn't get into Birthmarked (which was O'Brien's debut novel) but I absolutely devoured this one! And unreliable narrators are definitely fun to read - you never know what might happen!

    Luckily, for us, there is a sequel in the works, set to release next year! Woo!