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Dreamland is about a young woman, Caitlin, who feels trapped in Cassandra's, her older sister's, "perfect" shadow, and thus seems to have no life or personality or recognition of her own. She's a classic "nobody" until Cassandra leaves home, when she suddenly finds the spotlight on herself. While she's trying to work out who she is, she is drawn to "bad boy" Rogerson, who introduces her to drugs and eventually turns to violence.
In an interview shortly after this book was released, Sarah Dessen explained some of her motivations for writing this book. Only years after high school, she learned that several of her friends had been in abusive relationships; she'd been completely unaware. The concept, even as an adult, was a revelation to her, considering how fragile teenage psyches are to begin with. She added that teenagers' ideas of themselves and their feelings and their understandings of the world around them changes so quickly--almost daily--during that precarious period, and if we add the problem of falling in love then being beaten...the long-term damage caused may be irreparable.
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