Book Review: Shattered Dreams by Ellie James

Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin

Published: 6th December 2011 (expected)

Format: e-book

Pages: 352

Genre: Paranormal, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 3/10

Amazon/Goodreads

‘Sixteen-year-old Trinity Monsour wants nothing more than to live a normal life. But that isn’t as easy as it seems. Trinity is different. She is special. She sees visions, and for those she’s seen, it’s already too late.

Trinity arrives on her aunt’s doorstep in New Orleans with virtually no knowledge of her mysterious heritage. She begins settling into life at a new school and even starts making friends. But all too quickly her dreams accelerate; twisted, terrifying visions of a girl locked in a dark room. And when the head cheerleader, Jessica, goes missing, Trinity knows she has no choice but to step forward with what she’s seen.

But people believe that Trinity has information about Jessica’s disappearance not because of a dream, but because she is involved. She is kind-of dating Jessica’s ex-boyfriend, Chase, and Jessica did pull a nasty prank on Trinity. Revenge seems like the likeliest scenario.

Nothing prepares Trinity for the dark odyssey that ensues while searching for Jessica, including the surprising romance she finds with Chase, or the shocking truths she learns, not just about the girl who has gone missing, but the past that has been hidden from her.’

First of all, I feel I should point out how misleading this cover is, it really doesn’t reflect the dark tone the book was aiming for at all.

Shattered Dreams is one of those books you finish reading and think, what the hell happened!? If this book has taught me anything, it’s that I am obviously far too stubborn for my own good (and quite possibly a glutton for punishment), because I made myself read the whole thing even though I wanted to put it down after the first few chapters.

A quick look at Goodreads told me that the majority of people have rated this one highly, so I kept going in the hopes that everything would suddenly click into place and make some sort of sense.

That never happened.

You guys – I’m not sure I can even really tell you what happened in this book. To be honest, in parts, I didn’t have a clue what was going on. The biggest issue I had with Shattered Dreams was that I found the narration disjointed, clunky and, frankly, all over the place. I think the author was going for atmosphere and attempting to create a heightened sense of drama, suspense and mystery. In reality, all it did was leave me increasingly frustrated with the random jumps and lost so often in regards to the timeline that I had to keep backtracking to figure out where on earth I was in the story.

Conversations and scenes are cut off at random places with no indication or warning (though part of this might have been because I was reading an ARC galley). The narration routinely skips ahead, or backwards, starting up again in the middle of a completely different scene. It became far too much effort to figure out when or where I was within the story, and it seemed to me that the constant cutting of scenes prematurely became a plot device used by the author for dramatic effect, or to simply keep the reader in the dark for as long as possible. Even more confusing was keeping track of whether Trinity was experiencing a vision or mere reality.

I’ve also never been a fan of having characters lied too or deliberately withheld important information from, so that the reader is left just as clueless as the protagonist, and this happens far too often in Shattered Dreams. I couldn’t understand why Trinity wasn’t curious or angry enough to push for information regard her own past. Her parents died when she was very little, and she isn’t even exactly sure how they died. She knows next to nothing about them because no one will tell her (and because it is convenient for the plot). And when they do tell her, they lie. Again. Also frustrating was Trinity’s affinity to run away whenever she is about to learn something important, because its all ‘too much’ for her to handle at the time.

Which brings me to the second major problem with Shattered Dreams. The characters. Or rather, the complete lack of characterization. Trinity was… there. I can’t really tell you anything about her, other than she is melodramatic, makes incredibly stupid decisions and runs away a lot. I ended up wanting to shake her most of the time and couldn’t wait to get out of her head, since the entire book is told from her perspective.

Chase as the main love interest, lacked substance. Shattered Dreams takes up a few weeks after Trinity arrives in New Orleans. We never get to see the beginning of their relationship, and so we never really learn how or why these two characters fall for one other given that there is little interaction or conversation between the two of them throughout the rest of the book. We are simply put right in the middle on this bizarrely intense relationship, with no explanation as to why it is so intense. I couldn’t see it. In fact Chase’s behaviour is so strange, possessive and inappropriate, I was convinced he was the kidnapper for the majority of the book and that Trinity was his next target. His girlfriend is missing, quite possibly in danger, and all he cares about is hooking up with Trinity. Nice.

Trinity, for her part, quickly becomes utterly reliant on Chase, her heart, or soul, free falling whenever he touches her (which is often – Chase clearly doesn’t like anyone else too near ‘his’ girl) and he is, apparently, the only person she has ever opened up too. And yet, none of that stops her from grinding up against some stranger in a bar and making out and offering to spend the night with another guy.

I won’t go into issues surrounding the plot in general, as I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who are interested in trying this one out for yourselves. Suffice to say, parts of it didn’t really make much sense (a certain character pops up in an abandoned building and again at an abandoned hospital with no explanation as to how or why he is there) and I found it all rather unsatisfactory.  We’re also left with a very awkward ending which seems to be making the way for a sequel.

However, the beginning chapter was very well done and built up the tension and interest nicely, and there were moments, particularly in the last third of the book, where there were glimpses of how good this book could have been, if only the narrative had been less confusing and more time had been spent on character development. As it was, Shattered Dreams sadly turned out to be one of my most disappointing reads this year.

*Many thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan for making this available for review*

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