The Cure For Dreaming by Cat Winters
Amulet Books, 2014; 342 pp
Reviewed by Juliana Amir
In her book, The Cure for Dreaming, Cat Winters writes, “I braced myself for fire. But, no—instead a young man stepped out of the clouds onto the apron, and the audience drew a collective gasp…I gripped the armrests with all my might for the boy looked like the devil. I swear he resembled Lucifer himself…” While it may suffer from some overreliance on outside references, The Cure for Dreaming is a fast-paced read with substance.
The plot of Winters’ novel begins with a focus on Henri Reverie. As a showman, the hypnotist Henri Reverie takes many forms, and seated in his audience is Olivia Mead. Waiting to see whom he will mesmerize first, she is mortified to be the one welcomed under the bright stage lights. Olivia cannot begin to suspect the tumultuous affects this will have on her life.
Olivia, Winters’ protagonist, is a suffragist in year 1900, when gender equality was considered a scandalous topic. Because of Olivia’s evident need for reeducation, she is hypnotized to see the world as it really is. This rare insight instantly makes her unique, yet it is not the only reason she stands out in a montage of limp YA heroines. Olivia’s main predicament is not romance. She has heavier concerns about her identity, thanks to the science of hypnosis. Facing a father who wants her rebellion extracted, anti-suffragists that include a circle of persnickety women, and young men with obscure intentions, Olivia, through this tale, is not seeking to be true to herself, but to uncover who that person is. This admirably focuses the novel on that mystery rather than the any overly didactic messages about gender.
Olivia’s adventure is richly woven and enjoyable, but one small pitfall is the reliance on Stoker’s Dracula. It is an irritating, yet popular tactic to mention classic novels and make correlations between characters that often distract from the essence of the story being told. Thankfully by mid-book the references die away and The Cure for Dreaming relies solely on its own inventiveness, leaving its reader submerged in a dynamic time in history that transcends fiction.