I was raised on a mix of classical music and 50s and 60s hits, with a foray into 40s big band every once in a while. Mix that in with a father who danced my mother around the kitchen and whistled to every tune, and what do you get? A love (or at least a grudging appreciation) for those oldies. I’m still not a huge fan of opera – my mom pushed that – but I find myself humming doo-wop hits more than I’d like to admit. Thanks, Dad.
Predictably, one of my favorite songs to sing to myself is “Mister Sandman.” When I realize I’m doing it, I usually stop guiltily, but there’s no denying that it’ll be in my head forever. So when I heard about the concept of Cyn Balog’s upcoming novel Sleepless, I was understandably intrigued.
Eron De Marchelle isn't supposed to feel a connection. He is a Sandman, a supernatural being whose purpose is to seduce human charges to sleep. While he can communicate with his charges in their dreams, he isn't encouraged to – after all, getting too involved in one human's life would prevent him helping his other charges get their needed rest.
But he can't deny that he feels something for Julia. Julia, with her fiery red hair and her sad dreams. Just weeks ago, her boyfriend died in a car accident, and Eron can tell that she feels more alone than ever. Eron was human once too, many years ago, and he remembers how it felt to lose the one he loved. Eron has always felt protective of Julia...but now, when she seems to need him more than ever, he can't seem to reach her...
Sandmen are forbidden from communicating with humans outside their dreams. But will Eron be willing to risk everything for a chance to be with the person he loves?
Real, live, fiction fantasy Sandmen! That in and of itself gets an A+. And not only because I have a ‘thing’ for Sandmen. But ALSO because it’s (as far as I know) completely original in YA fiction, and Balog creates a plausible mythology for this story.
I think Sleepless has a lot going for it, and the summary/teaser/whatever-you-call-it is certainly appealing. I like the ‘his and hers’ perspective that alternating chapters provide. It allows for wider reader interaction with the characters and storyline, and the changing viewpoints kept me from being too biased towards one character or another. There is satisfying tension and mystery despite the two-narrator system.
With those things said, I did note one weakness. It’s Eron’s voice. I know that it is extremely difficult to replicate the tone, language and speech variance of times gone by, especially in a format that will appeal to a young adult audience. I still felt that Eron sounded stiff, modern and clueless rather than like a man from 1910. It’s probably just me being nit-picky, so if you don’t think it will bother you, pick this book up!
And before I get back to what I liked, I’m going to mention the elephant in the room. I hate to say it (except I don’t – look, I said it last year!), but this book has Twilight-like elements. They’re not all over the place, and no one is going to get sued for copyright infringement, so don’t get your panties in a twist. I just have a few Edward Cullen/Eron De Marchelle similarities to point out:
1. Age. Both gentlemen are over 100. For cereal.
2. Death. They both kicked the bucket in gruesome fashion back in the day, but were ‘saved’ from it.
3. Creepy bedroom
stalking scenes. He watches while she sleeps. (I know, it’s kind of the point in Sleepless, but still.)
4. Super-polite behavior. I’m stretching this one, but think of it as a ‘gentleman complex.’
Those things begged to be said. You understand, right? OH! And did I mention the cover artwork?!
Now that I’ve done my duty, I have to tell you one more thing I enjoyed about Sleepless. It was my utter and complete hateration of the character Chimere. Yes, I just used a made-up word in that last sentence. It fit. Don’t argue. Okay, back to Chimere. She is everything I love to hate: inhuman, beautiful, naïve-seeming, and giggly. Plus I think she wears ruffles and corsets a lot (or maybe I’m imagining things). And let’s not even get started on what she actually does and says. Anyway, I quite enjoyed my absurd dislike of Chimere; it made the reading experience a lot of fun to imagine different ways to do her in. If that can even be done. But you know.
So there you have it: Sleepless is a flawed but unique tale that will please fans of the YA paranormal genre. Recommended for incurable romantics, anyone with a Sandman fixation (I know you’re out there – I can’t be the only one!), and readers everywhere looking for a tale to wile away those sleepless hours.
Sleepless comes out on July 13, 2010 from Delacorte Press.