Saturday, May 21, 2011

ARC Review: Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando

Dreamland Social Club
Author: Tara Altebrando
Publication: Dutton Juvenile (May 12, 2011)

Description: Jane has traveled the world with her father and brother, but it's not until her fractured family-still silently suffering from the loss of Jane's mother many years before-inherits a house and a history in Coney Island that she finally begins to find a home. With the help of a new community of friends, a mermaid's secrets, and a tattooed love interest with traffic-stopping good looks, the once plain Jane begins to blossom and gains the courage to explore the secrets of her mother's past.

Colorful characters, beautiful writing, and a vibrant, embattled beachfront backdrop make this the perfect summer read for anyone who has ever tried to find true love or a place to call home.

My Thoughts: I didn’t really know what to expect when I won Dreamland Social Club from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program. I was pleasantly surprised to find this book an interesting and engaging coming-of-age story. Sixteen-year-old Jane has come to Coney with her father and brother because she and her brother have inherited their grandfather’s house. They never met their grandfather. Their mother died when Jane was six. Jane’s family has constantly traveled around because of her father’s job as a structural engineer who designs amusement park rides. they are used to spending just one year in a place and moving on.

Coming to Coney brings back a lot of childhood memories for Jane as she recalls games she and her mother played and songs she sang to her. The Coney culture that Jane enters is replete with those freaks and geeks who have made Coney Island their home for generations. Jane’s grandfather was known as Preemie because he was part of an exhibit of premature babies. Her grandmother had an act as a birdwoman. The house they inherit is filled with Coney Island memorabilia including a carousel horse which is chained to a radiator. The horse leads to an interesting subplot. She is harassed at school by a couple of the grandsons of the man who actually carved the carousel horse.

Jane is searching for her identity.  She sees herself as boringly normal. She makes friends with a goth dwarf, a giant, a budding contortionist and a boy with bunches of tattoos. She thinks Leo, the boy with the tattoos, is the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He also happens to be the son of her mother’s best friend. Together they explore Coney Island on the search for her mother’s secrets. Jane believes that learning more about her mother will help her learn who she is. As she explores Coney, she learns a lot of things about her mother and the other people who live there.

Tensions on Coney Island are high because a new company -- Loki -- is coming in to develop the area and forcing the old attractions out. Unfortunately, Leo’s dad owns one of the bars that Loki wants to demolish and Jane’s dad is designing a new ride for Loki.

It was fascinating to watch Jane build a place for herself on Coney. I thought that the secondary characters were interesting and well-developed. The setting of the story was interesting too. I don’t think I have ever read another book about an amusement park.

I recommend this to young adults who are also searching for their identity and who like exploring new places.

Favorite Quote:
“I know.” He nodded. “And it’s complicated stuff. Especially if you know the prople involved. But there’s really no right thing in a situation like this.”
“Doesn’t mean there isn’t a wrong thing,” she said. Then, “What do you think Mom would make of all this? The Tsunami? The redevelopment?”
“I don’t know.” He rubbed his eyes. “I only know that she loved this place and hated it, and she was justified in both of those things. Maybe the development will get rid of some of the hate for the restof us who are still here.”
I received an ARC of this book for review from LibraryThing as a part of their Early Reviewers program. The hardcover and Kindle versions are available at Amazon now.


  1. It sounds like a very surreal story - was it easy to relate to. I love books with music in them :D

  2. I saw this one at a book look but it was not my first choice. I think it stayed on the table until the end. Something with the cover? Interesting to hear what you thought about it.


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