Book review: The Dream where the Losers Go by Beth Gobie

I finished a really good book this week. I like it because it combines elements of fantasy with very realistic and heavy subject matter.

Skey is sixteen and has spent the last five months in a “lockup” after attempting suicide by cutting her arms. Five months in and she still has yet to remember why this happened. She is allowed to attend her own school by this point. Every night Skey dreams of tunnels. Either the tunnel of dark or the tunnel of light. The dark tunnel is comforting and safe because you can’t see anything and it’s cool and quiet. She feels her way along the walls and notices carvings, that tell stories and speak to her of her past emotions, things in her family and express ideas in general like summer or rain.

The tunnel of light is so intense it’s terrifying. It gives you a headache due to the intensely bright lights and high pitched noises. The carvings are sharp and cut your fingers.

The night before going to school Skey is walking the dark tunnels as she does when a rock lands at her feet. It’s kicked by someone but she doesn’t know who. She picks up the rock which is her bridge to the dreamworld. And also imaginary.

The lockup is for kids with depression aggression and other mental illness. The staff seem nice but Skey is pretty closed off to them. Terry is her favorite counselor as she’s very perceptive. When other attempts to get Skey to open up fail she asks her to tell her what color she’s feeling each day so that when Terry is there and Skey is away she can think about that color.

Skey enters the world of her old school, and there the world of The Dragons. An aggressive and dangerous group of boys and some girls tagging along. Her boyfriend Jiger is head of the gang along with Pedro, Balford and some other guys I can’t remember. Anyway they’re very dominanting and bully other kids at school and are very sexualized. In school she floats between reality of classes, meeting a new student tutor, being pressed into the high tention and aggression of the gang and anxiety and flashbacks.

People in her life can tell she’s drifting off. Her student tutor Tammy describes her as “ hovering.” Not really being in the world with much substance. She brings Skey nutricious food and that seems to help her stay grounded in their sessions.

By this time in her dreamworld she’s found the rock kicker. A boy like her lonely and in pain and with many secrets. He doesn’t know his name and hasn’t been outside the tunnils in a long time. He’s often found swearing which is to him its own language. He scares very easily and once ran away for nights at a time when Skey accidentally touched him. Then there’s Lick at school. He has some long weird name so I’m glad that’s his nickname. Due to the fact he’s anxious and licks his lips a lot.

He’s extremely jitery and very much a nerd. Skey feels an instant connection between them an attraction not necessarily just sexual and the rock pulses in her pocket when she’s around him. She discovers that Lick too travels somewhere in his mind often and loses time but he doesn’t know where.

Jiger continues to pressure Skey for sex as well as to get a key to the lockup so they can do night games. Basically going through the place destroying stuff and hurting people, and later Skey realizes to possibly hurt/ kill her.

Jiger sees Skey with Lick and is wuite physically abusive to her at that moment. Says never to catch her with him again even though it was totally innoscent. The two however are assigned to work on an English assignment and Lick even comes to the lockup to study.

Meanwhile Skey gets to know the boy in the tunnil more and more but still doesn’t know what caused him to be trapped there or why she tried to kill herself.

At one point the lockup is victim to a riot started by an aggressive group of girls. Skey and three other girls hide while the others literally tear the place apart putting huge holes in the walls breaking furniture tearing down plaster. It was surprising there was still a building left and to me one of the things not very realistic on the realistic side of the story, because who would be able to do that much damage to a locked psych facility area? Also unrealistic that the patients helped paint rebuild and redecorate.

Anyway in all this she forgets about calling Jiger one day over the weekend. He someone finds out about Lick coming for the project though she had lied and said it was a girl from the group. He and the others beat Lick severely until he is in critical condition.

Skey is heartbroken and helpless. In the dreamworld something even weirder happens. The boy comes out of the tunnil and into Lick’s body/ mind and Lick goes into the tunel. They essentially switch places. It takes Skey awhile to figure this out. Then another crisis at the lockup forces her to fully relive the original trauma. She stops another girl mid suicide attempt (cutting her throat actually) and this somehow sends her into the part of her mind that’s blocked off what happened.

Basically she was lured into having sex with her boyfriend who she was very much in love with and then gang raped by the other Dragons. She was ashamed of her body’s natural response as well as deeply traumatized. When she’s able to tell Terry about it that’s when healing really begins for her. She presses charges against the boys and works with her social worker more in therapy.

She also realized at the time she was reliving the trauma that a part of herself was trapped in the place it happened. And by reclaiming that part she was no longer able to enter the tunnels without the rock and basically more whole.

Her final task is to put things right with Lick. She does a similar thing using the rock as a bridge insisting the part of Lick now in the present touch her hand and bringing the two together. Lick’s trauma was sexual abuse by his brother and other boys. As with Skey he is able to bring these parts together and feel more whole.

Months later she is able to leave the lockup with a solid sense of self new true friends and a real rock to remind her of her special dream.

Like I said I thought the chracters basically had a lot of depth and were quite perceptive especially Skey and the counselor terry. I also liked how the word “losers” changed connotation. In the beginning she described the girls in the lockup as losers she had nothing in common with. By the end she realized they were losers in that they all had lost parts of them somewhere and the tunil dream was where they might journey to get them back.

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