The Circus of Stolen Dreams
One of my favorite books of all time is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern because of its concise presentation and its memorable storytelling. So, I am thrilled to have discovered The Circus of Stolen Dreams, which reads as a middle grade version of that novel. This is the story of Andrea Murphy, a twelve-year-old girl who cannot stop blaming herself for the disappearance of her brother three years before. When she is offered the chance to step away from the pain of her life into a world where she can choose to forget, she jumps at it, unaware of all she may be risking in the process. I loved the beautiful way this novel is delivered and the fact that it wraps up in a satisfying and yet not fully rigid manner. This is an excellent story for middle grade readers. Please see my full review below!
Somewhere in the space between sleeping and wakefulness lies a place where one can either forget the pain of reality or choose to relive favorite moments over and over again. It has been three years since Andrea Murphy’s brother Frances disappeared in the middle of the night, leaving Andrea to cope with both his absence and their parents’ divorce on her own. In an attempt to move forward, Andrea’s parents have decided to let go of Frances’ things to make room for more growth in their lives. But this is too much for Andrea, who has yet to forgive herself for her brother’s disappearance. So, when she is offered the chance to visit Reverie, a place where her worst memories can be forgotten, she takes it. Inside the unpredictability of dreamspace, Andrea must determine what the truth really is and where her future needs to be.
This beautiful and complex adventure feels like a middle grade version of The Night Circus, where dreamers must navigate a whimsical world in order to process challenging events in their own realities. Andrea is twelve years old at the beginning of the story, and she can hardly see through the pain of her brother’s disappearance. While she is initially comforted by the fact that she can forget what happened on that fateful night, she begins to slowly realize that pain is just as important to life as pleasure and that one cannot exist without the other. Andrea’s growth throughout this story is profound, and it serves as a model for young readers to process their own pain while choosing to live alongside it.
Middle grade readers with a passion for magic realism will love the complex nature of this book and the twists and turns necessarily involved in the world of Reverie. More than once, readers will find themselves wondering exactly what is real, working through the clues and evidence alongside the characters themselves. Detailed descriptions make both the world of Reverie and Andrea’s emotions come alive for the reader, placing them inside this space as the story unfolds. Lovingly crafted, this story will speak to readers who have ever worked through a deep emotional struggle, and it will leave readers considering their own realities, as well. This is a memorable and uplifting story for middle grade readers, and it is an important contribution to libraries serving young people.
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