There is a lot to unpack in Ryan La Sala’s debut standalone YA fantasy novel Reverie. From the fruition of dreams to owning our true selves, ‘Reverie’ doesn’t hold back on the consequences of our actions. (minor spoilers)
If you had a power would you be able to handle the responsibility take came along with it? Ryan La Sala’s fantastical debut Reverie delves deep into the psyche of not only it’s main character, but that of his friends as well.
Reverie takes place in our world, but with one major difference: dreams manifest and become real, engaging the lives of anyone in its wake. It’s up to a group of teens to make sure these dreams don’t end in catastrophe, which is a lot to put on anyone’s shoulders, let alone emotionally volatile high schoolers who have to keep up with school and extracurricular activities because everyone around them doesn’t know they are trapped in said dreams.
Like many dreams, Reverie starts out light in tone but quickly becomes darker as the dream continues on and not everything is as it seems. Reverie has been compared to Inception and The Magicians, but I’d like to add in Percy Jackson and the Olympians to that mix. Like Rick Riordan, Ryan La Sala has the ability to write danger with a sense of levity, keeping the tone lighter than it could have easily become within the scope of the plot.
Warning: this post contains spoilers pertaining to the plot and character arcs in Reverie.
At the root of Reverie is the protagonist, Kane, who has amnesia after a car accident, so he doesn’t remember his friends or how he used to be beforehand. One of the few things he remembers besides his family is that he’s gay. The way Ryan La Sala handles sexuality in Reverie reminds me of kids that I know, or knew, who seemed to be the last ones to realize that they were LGBT+.
In a way Reverie is about how suppression and repression can manifest into something else entirely, becoming something we can’t even recognize within ourselves and can be uncontrollable once it bursts out into the world.
Both Kane and Dean’s hesitance at expressing their sexualities in high school brings a heightened sense of realism to Reverie, along with the fact that only a few kids have the ability to see past the dreams and remain grounded in reality.
There is something to be said about these teenagers being on the outside and looking in as those around them become dream versions of themselves, where they have to try to conform to the dream around them so it doesn’t rip itself apart. Deep down, Reverie is about conformity and maintaining a facade and what happens when dreams crumble and how quickly things spiral out of control.
Throughout our lives we all have to perform, in a way, in the same fashion as these teenagers do in these manifested dreams in order to fit into society. The fact that in this book the dreams are real doesn’t discount the cookie cutter world in which we live in, it heightens it.
That’s where Poesy comes in. Poesy sweeps in, immediately becoming the confidante that Kane desperately needed as he tried to put his life back together. Poesy, a drag queen extraordinaire, is the perfect villain for this breakthrough YA fantasy novel because of what she represents to Kane. Poesy is confident, knows what she wants, and is willing to do anything to get it.
Kane’s uncertainty and hesitence costs him at each step of the way, and in the end it’s his new found resolve that keeps Poesy’s plan from truly taking shape. Poesy is the manifestation of something that is too good to be true. A dream, where a fairy godmother comes sweeping in to save us from our mistakes when in reality that dream is actually a nightmare that we have to face on our own.
Each of Kane’s friends, The Others, has a different power. At first it seems random, but the psychological aspect of why each of them has that certain power adds even more depth to Reverie that could span books.
By giving characters powers based on their own internal struggles and fears Ryan La Sala put even more weight on Elliot, Ursula, and Adeline’s shoulders. Being forced to think about their own struggles in order to return life to normal is a high price to pay, and that price was too high for Kane to bare before he lost his memories.
What each character does with their power is very telling. Kane’s arc in finding out what happened to him, what he had and what he lost was compelling and something that readers could empathize with in the face of his fears.
If given an all consuming power would you be able to handle the pressure? I know I wouldn’t. Kane sacrificing himself, his entire being, and then having to make the decision again and not run away from his problems was true character growth despite the fear and consequences if he should fail.
For a standalone YA fantasy book about dreams, the level of depth that went into it is more than meets the eye. If our innermost dreams came to life, along with our fears and turmoils taking front and center instead of being shoved down deep inside of us, it would truly be something both stunning and terrifying to behold, which is the best way to describe Reverie.