"I have succeeded where all other monsters have failed. I have won myself a true family. I am the happiest monster of all."
~Monster, THE GIRL WHO COULD NOT DREAM
Imagine if things like dream shops existed! Amazing, right? We could dive into dreams featuring glittery unicorns and ninja bunnies and see sights beyond our wildest dreams. Dreams take us to new worlds and let us explore things beyond reality. If we had a way to bottle dreams and truly experience them, well, who wouldn't want that chance? The only problem is, dreams aren't always nice and sweet. They can be dangerous nightmares, too. What happens if someone tries to harness evil and bring it into our world? Dream shops can be dangerous, too.
Sophie's parents own a dream shop, and ever since she illegally stepped into a dream as a child, she hasn't repeated the mistake. The dream had been a nightmare and could have gone incredibly wrong. However, since Sophie had control of the dream and wasn't afraid of the monster lying within, she managed to bring him into our world as a fluffy, talking pet named Monster who quickly became her best friend and protector. Sophie has always been attracted to dreams because she can't dream. She doesn't know how to. She envies those who can. Her parents always told her to keep her inability to herself so that the knowledge didn't fall into the wrong hands. When her parent's shop and Sophie's unusualness are discovered, the dream world is at stake and everyone's lives are thrown into terrible danger.
I really like the way heavy themes are introduced into the novel naturally and become important parts of the fabric. Middle school is tough enough to begin with, but even more so when bullies exist who want to make every waking day miserable. In some ways, Monster is that ultimate imaginary friend who always sticks by our side through thick and thin. Nobody outside Sophie's family knows Monster exists, and he's her only friend. When new student Ethan enters her life, friendship takes on a new meaning. All you need in life is one good friend and you can accomplish anything! There's also a great focus on families in this book. Usually, parents are only thrown in to hinder the main character's journey and interaction involves a lot of sass. Sophie's parents are great, caring role models, and when they're kidnapped, Sophie is willing to go to great lengths in order to save them.
I love Sarah Beth Durst and her vivid imagination. She's introduced me to so many new fantasy worlds over the years. While she predominantly writes YA, she's also written adult and middle-grade novels, and her sense of whimsy is always present. As soon as I heard the the title for her new middle-grade title, THE GIRL WHO COULD NOT DREAM, I was intrigued, and the moment I was introduced to Monster, who features heavily in the book, I had grabby hands. Pair this with how awesome Sarah is, because if you've ever been lucky enough to meet her in person, you love her personality, too. I was so glad that THE GIRL WHO COULD NOT DREAM lived up to all my expectations, and can't wait to introduce the book to new readers who enjoy standalone fantasy novels! (Though if Sophie and co. were to have more adventures, well!!!)
But fair warning? Have cupcakes at the ready because you'll want to eat one as you read! You might also want a pet Monster of your own and go through withdrawal that he can't be duplicated!