Here's what I love about being in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club: Anne is constantly introducing me to books that I would not have chosen for myself. That is to say, I really should venture into the young adult section of my library more often because we've read some gems this year that would not have otherwise made it onto my nightstand. Dreamland Burning is just another book to add to your reading list, but if you're like me and partial to historical fiction novels, you might want to bump it up to the top of that list.
This novel plays out in much the same way that many of my favorite historical fiction reads do: two perspectives (one past, one present) and a mystery that leads the protagonist to explore past events. The modern day perspective in this novel follows Rowan Chase, a teenager living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When construction crews stumble upon human remains on the grounds of Rowan's house, she is compelled to learn about the history of the place she calls home. The past narrative follows Will Tillman, a teenager who lived in Tulsa one hundred years before Rowan. Will works at his fathers shop, and is a firsthand witness to the racial tension that suddenly overflows with the race riot of 1921. These characters are bound together by the instances of racism in their own lives, and both have to make hard decisions about what is easy and what is right.
I loved that this book explored a period of time that I had absolutely no background knowledge of, and I've heard the same from many other readers. The story weaves threads from the events in Tulsa in 1921 to the problems that our present-day society has with race, to show the reader both how society has changed and how we have an immense amount of work still to be done in protecting all of the vulnerable populations in our society. Not to mention, there was a great twist in this novel that had me thinking some pretty deep thoughts about the ways in which we construct dividing lines between ourselves and others. For that reason, I'd recommend this not only to young adult readers, but to readers of all ages.
Bottom-Line Rating: 4/5
Title: Dreamland Burning
Author: Jennifer Latham
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 2017
Price: $10 on Amazon
Source: Public Library