Elizabeth Knox, Author . FSG/Foster $19 (365p) ISBN 978-0-374-31853-6

Knox's (The Vintner's Luck , for adults) debut for YA readers, the first in the Dreamhunter Duet, recalls Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's sci-fi masterpiece Roadside Picnic . Both tell of a mysterious geographic region (here called "the Place") with unusual powers and properties, and of the societal caste made up of those designated to explore it. The Place is where dreams originate; dreamhunters enter it, capture dreams in their minds, then return to "perform" them for the masses at the Rainbow Opera palace. The novel centers on 15-year-old Laura Hame, whose father Tziga is the legendary dreamhunter who discovered the Place as a young man. Laura is about to have her "Try," a coming-of-age ritual which will test her sensitivity to dreams. She succeeds and, a few days later, her father vanishes. Laura ventures into the Place to find him, but instead receives a letter from him, confiding in her the essence of the Place and saddling her with a terrible mission—to clear up a mess of his own making. Knox's fascinating story imagines the intersection of a haunting dream-world with a gritty real world. A Regulatory Body oversees dreamhunters as if they were mundane laborers, maps point out the exact spots in the Place where certain dreams reside, and an industry emerges to sell eager customers the exact dreams they seek. And what Laura learns about how the government really uses dreams (especially in prison reform) makes for biting commentary. This fully imagined world will surely lure readers back for multiple readings. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 02/01/2006
Genre: Children's
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