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Sleepless by Terri Clark

May 2, 2009

sleeplessTrinity has lucid dreams. She doesn’t want them, doesn’t want to know other people’s secrets, but she can’t help it. Every night, she goes to sleep and dreams of “real places, real people, real events… Sometimes I’ll even meet people in my dreams right before I meet them in real life.”

Last year, for the first time, Trinity took action because of a dream. She helped police find murderer named Rafe Stevens, but Stevens’ lawyer convinced a jury to have Stevens committed to a mental institute instead of sending him to jail. And now that Stevens has somehow escaped, he is attacking Trinity, trying to kill her, through her dreams. The only one who can help Trinity is Dan, whose father is Stevens’ lawyer.

As I read Terri Clark‘s Sleepless, I kept thinking that I should be enjoying it more. It’s a paranormal suspense romance with mature element and occasionally reminded me of Lois Duncan’s The Third Eye, in a good way. Having finished the book, I’m still willing to suspend my disbelief over the events/abilities. But what prevented me from really liking the novel is that Sleepless is a fun, escapist read.

Humor and horror or suspense can work well together. Some of the comedic episodes of Supernatural are among my favorites, not to mention Scream, anyone? And while it’s unfair to compare Sleepless to Scream or Supernatural because of the different mediums (and, by the time the comedic episodes of Supernatural aired, viewers were already invested in the characters, something that is impossible in a standalone novel like Sleepless), I have to say that I didn’t find the humor and horror/suspense in Sleepless to be well integrated. There are some of great pop culture references, like

“’Tis true I’m going to soccer camp, but I’m making it my goal to experience new things. Like in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”

I gasped. “You’re going to lose your virginity to your soccer coach?”

“No! Well, maybe.” She grinned and waggled her eyebrows. “Depends on how hot he is.”

“I think I saw an episode of Supernatural like this,” I whispered too loudly. “It ended badly for everyone except Dean and Sam.”

Milt ignored my comments and started down the blackened stairs.

Dan and I exchanged anxious looks, but, really, what choice did we have?

“I’ll be Dean,” he said.

“No way,” I argued. “I’m prettier.”

“Fine,” he capitulated. “I can do smart and sullen.”

But the transitions from humor to need-to-escape-psychotic-killer were sometimes jarring. The tone of the novel seemed too glib and the characterizations too shallow to make the blend effective. While there were some funny lines and, later in the book, Stevens’ attacks on Trinity were suspenseful, these two elements did not come together in a cohesive whole. Likewise, the romance. I never felt like I had a good sense of who Trinity was, and at times it seemed like Stevens’ escape was more an excuse to throw Trinity and Dan together for an extended period of time than a source of suspense. And now that I think about it, *did* Stevens have to escape in order to attack Trinity, since it’s all through her dreams?

Maybe it’s because Trinity is narrating the book, so I was pretty sure she’d survive. (What’s that line from Barbara Michaels’ Wings of the Falcon? “Authors who write in the first person cannot expect their readers to be seriously concerned about the survival of the main character. A heroine who can describe her trials and tribulations in carefully chosen phrases obviously lived through those trials without serious damage.”) Maybe it’s that, despite loving Scream and Supernatural, when it comes to books, my preference is for spooky and scary, not funny. Ultimately, although there were parts of the book that I liked, the overall book did not work for me.

ETA 5/5/09: I should probably strike the penultimate sentence because I realized this morning that the spooky and scary is true about the books I read as a 10-13 year old, but not necessarily recent books like Rosemary Clement-Moore’s Maggie Quinn series. I think the difference is that in the Maggie Quinn books, Maggie’s voice is snarky and the humor comes across as organic to her voice. If that makes sense. The humor arose from her point of view and sensibilities, and I also had a better sense of Maggie as a character, of what kind of person she was, than I did Trinity in Sleepless. Trinity’s character building/development was lacking, a collection of traits and descriptions more than a fleshed-out character. I think, as individual elements, I don’t mind as much when a book is funny or scary without much character development (provided the book is funny or scary enough to distract me from the lack of character development), but the more elements an author tries to combine, the more I need stronger character development to serve as a foundation, so that having, say, funny and scary together seems natural because of the character’s worldview instead of seeming disjointed or forced when it doesn’t seem to fit with the character (whether because it’s out of character or the character wasn’t developed to the point/traits weren’t revealed early enough where it seems natural). That said, there was enough potential for me to be disappointed that the book wasn’t better, and for me to be intrigued by what Clark will write next.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2009 6:56 pm

    Hmm, it’s unfortunate this one wasn’t any better. I had been wondering how it was. The synopsis seems very similar to that of Lisa McMann’s Wake, which I wasn’t really a fan of either, unfortunately.

    • May 3, 2009 3:12 pm

      Sleepless and Wake are pretty different. To me, the only thing they have in common are the importance of dreams. I think people who didn’t like the style Wake was written in may like Sleepless more, because it’s a more conventional first person narration.

  2. May 3, 2009 3:42 am

    Pop culture references are SO funny sometimes, but it’s so dicey — it can really date a book too fast. This sounds like it has bigger worries, however!

    • May 3, 2009 3:26 pm

      The pop culture references I enjoyed. I do want to emphasize that I did like the humor and the suspense elements individually. Together, though, the suspense made the humor less funny, and the humor made the story less scary.

      I am in the minority about this, and if another reader doesn’t like too much scary, I can see how they might react better to this than me.

  3. May 3, 2009 5:09 am

    Thanks for taking the time to review Sleepless, Trisha. I’ve always been a fan of shows and movies that mix horror with humor. This is the first review I’ve seen that didn’t like the two together. Most of my readers have enjoyed the blend. But I appreciate your candor.

  4. May 8, 2009 4:32 am

    *gasp* A Supernatural reference? I must read this book YESTERDAY!!

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