Bibliography: O’Brien, Caragh M. The Vault of Dreamers. 2014. New York. Roaring Book Press.
Rosie Sinclair is a student at the prestigious Forge School of the Arts, and her life at school, along with the rest of her peers, is broadcasted live via The Forge Show. Originally developed as a way to encourage students and faculty to perform better, the show is now a household name. All of Forge’s students are also given sleeping pills, following the conclusion that a full twelve hours of sleep stimulates creativity. This is the only time students are free from the pressures of live television, and the struggle to maintain good blip ranks, or viewer ratings. But without the ominous presence of the cameras, and all possible witnesses in an induced sleep, could Forge’s nightlife be more sinister than it first appears?
Throughout the story, the reader navigates the twists and turns of new campus life with Rosie Sinclair. Rosie followed her passion for film-making to the popular school, but has a difficult time playing by the rules of the game- ones that everyone else seems to understand effortlessly. She has to juggle her schoolwork while trying to interact with her peers. She’s learning tricks of the reality show trade, but she struggles to resolve her inner turmoil in a way that won’t draw attention or reflect on camera. Not only does Rosie need her viewers to enjoy her broadcasted school experience to boost her blip rank, she also has to ensure that the school’s supervisors aren’t aware of her internal conflicts. After all, it’s difficult to investigate a hunch if the people involved know she is becoming suspicious. O’Brien does a fantastic job balancing all elements of the plot in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the reader, but, instead, makes them realize how stressful student life at The Forge School can be.
Rosie herself is a continuously evolving character that we get to see grow, both through flashbacks and events as they unfold. The reader can easily relate to her; oftentimes, Rosie’s words are taken out of context or misinterpreted, which leads to fights and miscommunication. She is a strong believer in standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, which is a recurring theme in the book. Rosie’s outspokenness is quite refreshing- her retorts seem to be the inner retaliation we all possess and rarely access. She’s a complex character; the audience will probably find themselves wondering how reliable of a narrator she is, and this is something that O’Brien toys with magnificently. O’Brien will successfully strip down everything you thought you knew about Rosie and her perspective including her involvement with certain events and rebuild them in an entirely new way.
Along with Rosie, the reader discovers that one of the hardest things in her world is discerning the integrity of what is said on camera. Who is being honest and who is putting on a show? Even when life isn’t constantly being filmed, this is an important message to take to heart. While there are some types of people that always want to see the best in others, that may not be the best idea- learning how to detect more unbelievable stories and finding people who can be authentic are imperative in building long-lasting relationships, platonic or otherwise.
“Vault of Dreamers” is a fresh and millennial-appropriate take on reality television, and what it means to be popular in high school. It allows readers to re-evaluate certain moral standards, such as what privacy actually entails and where lines should be drawn. It will definitely be a book you can’t put down.
“A fast, satisfying psychological thriller . . . The sudden cliffhanger will polarize readers.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Like viewers of The Forge Show, readers will want to keep watching Rosie.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Like O’Brien’s Birthmarked trilogy, this dystopian, sci-fi, psychological-thriller hybrid raises ethical and moral questions about science. This might have been a difficult story to pull off, given the environment, but with a likable narrator who is thoroughly unimpressed with herself, it works . . . this should have wide appeal.” (Booklist)
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Reviewed by C. Boucher (Guest Teen Reviewer)