Friday, 3 March 2017

'Sixteen' (The Dreamwalker Diaries #2) by Jen Estes

Image result for sixteen jen estes
*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Curiosity Quills, for sending me this title in exchange for an honest review. 
"How can she possibly form an attachment to any human?" Rob asked, to no one in particular. "She doesn't have a soul."
"Look, I don't know what her spiritual composition is, but I know her physical composition is human. And she laughs and cries, just like we do. She gets angry, and she gets happy. [...] If that's not a soul, what is?"
'My brother is Takoda, the Lakota word for "friend to everyone" - and he has spent his entire life living up to his name.' 
A lengthy prologue takes us back in time to the Jumlin's origin, and how he manipulated Takoda - brother of Ohanzee, the first Dreamwalker - taking advantage of his desperation for a child by promising him hundreds of them: the Jumlin's demon spawn.
I was glad to finally get some back story for the Jumlin and the Dreamwalkers, as Ashling's plight wasn't put into context in the first book, but it was disorienting to get thrown back in time so suddenly. 

Following the events of 'Fifteen', we reconvene with Ash at community service, where she's repenting for soliciting drugs from an undercover cop. They were only sleeping pills, but it's not like she could explain to the judge that she needed a stronger dose to allow her to go back in time and save her mother.
Ash is desperate, unable to come to terms with the fact that she saved the town but couldn't protect her own mother. She manages to track down Dr. Dietz - the fake doctor who introduced her to dreamwalking - and is shocked when she learns that he's actually called Rob Tinza, and he's her half-brother. Dreamwalking runs in the family, passed down her father's line, a new Dreamwalker in every generation.
She begs Rob to help her go back and fix things, and he begrudgingly hands over some of Ohanzee's peyote: the drug that started the dreamwalking off in the first place. He tells her to be careful - using the drug is not as simple as just falling asleep, and she needs to concentrate hard to make sure she gets back to the right time.
She meditates, focusing with all her might on her mother. All she needs to do is go back in time to when she needed her the most, and it'll be easy to resolve everything.
But when Ash opens her eyes, she finds herself sixteen years in the past: back when her mum was preparing to tell her father - Ash's grandfather - about her pregnancy. Whoops. 
After a bit of a struggle (and finally meeting her father before even being born!) Ash gets back to the present day. She's intending to try again, still certain that she'd be able to rescue her mom if she could just get back to the right day... But then Nadette and Tate return to Billings, and it seems as though the Jumlin finally has his true heir, Laughing Bear, in his clutches. 
There are still fourteen and a half years before Walker Smith can next attempt the ritual to make his spawn immortal, but if Ash doesn't do something now it might spell the end for the dreamwalkers, and the rest of the town... 

This sequel was not as neat as the first book in the series.
Dealing with time travel is always tricky: there are paradoxes, fixed points in time, twisting and tangling threads that it's impossible to straight out. None of this was a problem in the first book, because the direction of travel was one way, meaning the events in the present always impacted the events in the future, causing the constant changing and rearranging that allowed the dreamwalkers to foil the Jumlin's plans over and over.
But a lot of the events of this book weren't thought out.
Ash's brother and father both believe that killing Nadette is the best idea: it separates the Jumlin from Laughing Bear, and it protects Rob's son, Aiden, the next dreamwalker in line. After much back and forth, they decide to give her another chance to prove that she's not entirely evil. The next moment, future Ash is back and attempting to kill Nadette, putting her in hospital and under Walker's constant surveillance.
This is where things start to hurt my head. If leaving Nadette alone caused future Ash so much pain that she needed to come back and try to change things, that proves that Nadette didn't get any better. However, when future Ash comes back it convinces present Ash to speak to Nadette about everything, making her aware of everything that's going on and horrified by the potential events that her future could be comprised of.
Surely, then, because Nadette changes, future Ash wouldn't need to come back? Which means the catalystic event which led to her change wouldn't have happened, so she would have stayed terrible, thereby meaning that future Ash would need to return.
Do you see what I mean by paradoxes?!
It seems like such an obvious loophole, and I can't imagine that there's a good way for Jen to talk her way out of the corner she's written herself into.
Even without obsessing over the small, timey-wimey details, this was a weaker installment. Nothing really happens to further the plot, other than Ash finally meeting her father and brother. The first book repeatedly references her unknown parentage and insinuates that her and Dr. Dietz were family, meaning that development wasn't surprising, but it certainly pushes the plot forward. If it wasn't for Rob and her father, Ash would know a lot less about the origins of the dreamwalkers and the previous incarnations of Laughing Bear, which would give her a lot less information to play with.
The dreamwalker diaries were finally introduced, which I was glad about - I was expecting them to be a part of the first book. It didn't make much sense to have the series called The Dreamwalker Diaries when there was no diary-keeping ever mentioned!
But that was the only positive development. Ash grew up a little bit (even if her growing up meant coming to terms with her mother's death, starting to date her future husband's brother and becoming a mass murderer) but became a more whiny character, and her endearing nicknames for her younger mother and young Coop - TeenMom and Lil' Coop - had me rolling my eyes constantly. Then there's her brother and his minty-van... DOES IT NEED TO BE DESCRIBED AS A MINTY-VAN EVERY SINGLE TIME?! NO, GODDAMMIT. IT'S JUST A VAN.
...I know I'm getting very annoyed about the smallest things regarding this book, but they all added up and grated so much on my nerves that I was over the moon when it ended. I hadn't expected to feel like that - I'd been looking forward to reading this sequel all month, and genuinely thought I was going to love it - and now I'm really uninterested in any future continuations.
The ending is very open, so there's definitely going to be another book in the series: I just hope that the next one is less filler and more of the active action I loved in the first book. It's interesting that everyone knows everything - this isn't a normal YA, with the teens acting out by themselves - and I'm hoping that Jen will continue to use that positively to further the plot, rather than losing the story amongst the sprawling cast of characters and their relationship.

This book wasn't terrible, it just wasn't what I'd been expecting. If I hadn't had such high expectations, I probably would have been able to rate it higher: I'm just a grumpy bum, being too harsh because I wanted more from this sequel.
Dreamwalking is still a unique concept, and the retelling of the Lakota myths is something I'm surprised isn't written more regularly, but it's going to take a lot of work for Jen to regain my trust. I'm feeling so disappointed right now.

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