PHBC: DREAM DATE BY SINCLAIR SMITH

Posted by James Dawson on March 13, 2014

DreamDateWhat’s it all about?

New girl on campus, Katie Shaw, longs for her life to be filled with sexyfuntime so when she dreams up dangerously charming Heath Granger in her sleep she thinks he’s wonderful. However, when her waking life starts to take off and she meets hunkomatic Jason Miller, Heath starts to exhibit a more jealous side, putting Katie and Jason in TERRIBLE DANGER.

Terrible Danger?

Yes, siree. Heath is basically Freddy Krueger if Freddy Krueger was clever enough to have the skin off his ass grafted onto his face and buy a motorcycle. Heath goes to prove that girls will do anything for a ‘wicked but charming’ smile and he’s also able to mess with Katie’s waking life – causing fires, hallucinations, accidents and slowly taking over her body.

The Girl

Katie starts off well. It doesn’t last. Her first encounter with Jason is sweetly tongue-tied and awkward and the reader has sympathy for her insomnia. Sadly, once she meets Heath you can’t help but think she’s an idiot. The man is so classically villainous it’s a wonder he’s not in a cape. It takes our early Rihanna prototype a frustrating amount of time to realise he’s evil during which time you lose faith with her. Also, although Heath is a dream, she does kinda two-time him with Jason. You almost have to feel sorry for the poor psycho.

IMG_2910The Love Interest

Let’s look at Heath first: ‘His thick dark hair was wind-blown from the ride, and he had very dark eyes that made a person feel he saw a lot more with them than just how someone looked.’ Erm…what?

He’s so creepy in the first instance that it’s a wonder Katie wasn’t dreaming herself up a chip-pan fire to get away from him. And that’s before we even start on the ‘jungle cat’ thing…

Jason is genuinely hot with his ‘thick, sandy brown hair, lean, muscular arms and amazing eyes’ (it doesn’t say HOW they’re amazing, but I’m guessing they cry milk). From the Heartthrob board game, Jason gets PHILIP.

Dialogue Disasters

Love’s Raging Passion? Hey I’d like some of that!’

Heath is so high maintenance: ’Katie, a lot of girls just don’t understand me and that’s why they’re not special enough for me.’

‘By the way, your outfit is very fashionable.’ (Katie is a fan of the SWEATER DRESS).

Heath again: ‘You see this? It’s just like me – the jungle cat. I’m too slick and too fast and too smooth for you. Because I’ve got the wits of the jungle cat and you can’t match ‘em.’ The man is basically Kanye.

And a big shout out for Jason’s poem: ‘A rose is beautiful, so are diamonds and pearls, Katie Shaw, would you be my girl?’ (‘If I’m not a prize winning poet, it’s the thought that counts’. Counting the thoughts behind that shit did not take long.)

Body Count: 1

Did the best friend do it? There’s nothing to do, as it were.

Some Mild Peril?

There are some fairly scary bits actually. Elm Street taught us that losing control of something as fundamental as sleep is intrinsically scary. The middle section where Katie decides to stay awake and starts to hallucinate is pretty scary – she sees her face melt off, insects hatch out of her skin, faces at her kitchen window. All pretty effective. It’s a shame Heath himself isn’t more threatening.

Is it any good?

It could have been. Although this plot (evil genie) was done far, far better in The Cheerleader, there was a story to tell about nightmares within the Point Horror range. Where it fails is that Heath is never charming, so it makes no sense for Katie to fall for him in the first instance. The back and forth into the dream world actually becomes quite repetitive and, dare I say, dull. Things definitely pick up in the second half once Heath becomes out and out Krueger like. I wish more had been done with the dream world – it’s a book, Smith, there’s no budget – it doesn’t have to exist on one bloody back porch.

That said, there’s some nice teen messages in there about abusive relationships (which Katie certainly has with Heath) it’s just not particularly subtle. Snaps also to Smith for toying with a ‘is Katie just plain batshit’ twist at the end.

Finally, I can’t decide if the ambiguity of the ending (what Heath plans to do with the ‘dream energy’) works or not. Even Heath ponders why he doesn’t seek more victims. Why is he tied to just Katie? The house? Her age? Am I overthinking a Point Horror book? Definitely.

41SA3EJ197LNext up, following our first reader poll, you’ve chosen to delve into THE YEARBOOK by Peter Lerangis!

Over to you:

1. What is the significance of the Mexican crisp bowl which is described for no reason?

2. Other than Psycho, which other Hitchcock films do you think Jason brought over?

3. Who’s more high maintenance…Heath or Raquel?

4. How, exactly, did Heath remain in the dreamworld and where did he go?

5. Katie Shaw…innocent victim or delusional fantasist?

5 replies to “PHBC: Dream Date by Sinclair Smith”

  • Bookie Snacksize Says:

    Hehe. My own personal favourite bit of dodgy dialogue was Katie waking up and using the word “discombobulated”. SERIOUSLY? I can barely manage “good morning” even after a cuppa.

    1. I’m going to go with it being a metaphor for Katie’s sanity. Or the author is a Mexican crisp bowl fancier.

    2. Surely Suspicion? What with similar themes with the heroine questioning her sanity. Also Rear Window, because Rear Window is brilliant and Grace Kelly.

    3. Heath. Although I did suspect Raquel was going to be more significant than she turned out to be, just because she started out way too good to be true, and ended up just being slightly creepy.

    4. I have absolutely no idea. To be honest, I’m still not clear on how exactly Heath was defeated. Katie runs off, he chases on his motorbike (like you would), she falls over, he’s gone. What?

    5. I’m going with fantasist, based on her desire to re-invent herself for her new school and frankly dysfunctional parents to whom she clearly can’t talk about anything important. It’s cool that the parents were actually physically around for most of the story for a change, but they were crappy parents. Exhibit A, moving into a house which is clearly unsafe and has dodgy wiring. Exhibit B, Katie’s slut-shamey mum, telling her not to wear tight clothes. Exhibit C, being really controlling about (of all things) what time she gets up at the weekend. And Exhibit D, her father looking down his nose at someone who *gasp* let their personal problems affect them. What a tosspot. Let’s see how well he deals with personal problems when his badly wired house burns down. Yes, ok, I will cop to being genuinely irritated by the pair of them. Anyway…Katie wants to be different but her parents won’t let her, so she invents Heath to give her confidence but then goes a bit bonkers and has to bump him off. I BLAME THE PARENTS ;)

    Overall though, I thought Dream Date wasn’t bad at all. The beginning’s a bit slow and repetitive, and Heath is a terrible, terrible villain but there’s some really nice (by which I mean gross) imagery when Heath starts playing nasty and tricks Katie into thinking her face is melting or she’s growing cobwebs on her body. It also gets points for referencing Daphne du Maurier.

    Oh, oh! I noticed a reference to “Trixie’s Diner” and wondered if it was maybe a nod to the diner in The Waitress which was written by the same author and run by a character named Trixie…feel free to point and laugh at the girl who remembers Point Horror trivia from ’92 and can’t remember what she did last week ;)

  • @PaulHi Says:

    Wait, I’m not the first person to comment this month? What gives, you guys? I feel like Linda Nolan/Dolan/Duncan – all late to the party, and crazy mad about it. Yeah, you heard my month old Camp Fear reference; deal with it.

    Man, you guys are on fire this month. Genu-lols all round, with especial mentions for the Mexican bowl and ‘creepy’ Raquelle. Anyway, onward…

    Oh Sinclair, you had one job: Take this decent if derivative haunted dream business, and sell it. Well this 33 year old not-remotely-within-your-target-demographic man ain’t buying. I guess I should have known; the pencilled review on the inside front cover courtesy of teenage me (yep, it’s back this month) awarded this a 6 out of 10 alongside a dismissively terse “went on a bit”, and I’m inclined to agree. Considering Katie’s so quick to assume that Heath is an actual supernatural entity and not just the product of her weird little mind, it sure does take her a long time to do anything about it. And to think the cover – wow, that cover – held so much promise.

    Pacing issues and clunky, unnatural dialogue aside (“I wasn’t ‘taking myself a little snooze,’ at all, as you mistakenly suggest”), my biggest problem was with Heath, aka the most irritating Point Horror character we’ve come across to date (except maybe for Martha Trick-or-Treat). I would literally never tire of pushing him off his motorbike. The jungle cat scene in particular had me praying that all the characters’ faces would just hurry up and melt off already.

    Sometimes, I wondered what century Sinclair Smith was writing in. I know we expect a bit of comedy 90s naffness from these books, but lines like “The tender line of his mouth told so much about him”and a weird over-abundance of “she said to herself”s left me baffled. Also, I don’t know who Scholastic were hiring to proof these things, but if you’re going to make your heroine an unemployed schoolgirl, letting a “there was no way she’d be able to drive to work” slip through is frankly slapworthy. Another thing: Sinclair Smith really likes italics. Like, REALLY likes them. What’s that about?

    When it comes to the finale, I’m with you, Bookie. I was gearing up for some long-overdue kick-assery from our heroine, but in the end her masterplan seemed to consist solely of running into a field and then falling into a hole. Good one, Katie. It’s minds like yours that won us the war. Good job Heath is such a terrible driver.

    There were some treats among the nonsense, though. The Tippler wins were extraordinary creations, and hands-down my favourite characters. Not a chance they would have taken any of Heath’s shit. Also, the whole thing had a curiously old-fashioned Bunty picture story kind of vibe, and that much-mentioned melty-face-cockroach-skull interlude, not to mention an odd digression about brain tumours, were pretty nifty. The Elm St Lite setting was creepy in parts, too, and I agree that the abusive relationship message was to be applauded. I guess my biggest regret is that we never got to meet Raquelle’s boyfriend Maxx, or indeed his band WAXX. Maxx sounded like a hoot. Probs he was off partying with the Tippler twins. Smart move.

    Finally, Bookie, I can only high five you for being as desperately uncool as me, because I spotted the reference to Trixie’s Diner from The Waitress too. I think we should be really, really proud of this. Sigh.

    Okay, question time.

    1. If you don’t understand the significance of that bowl, I’m afraid I can’t help you. It is the novel’s Rosebud.
    2. He definitely would have gone for Rear Window – bit pervy, like him. Or what was the one with the Dali dream sequence? That one.
    3. This made me do a lol. I’d happily drive them both into a tree.
    4. Oh, who the hell knows? Sinclair Smith made up the rules for this dream world nonsense as (s)he went along. Something about energy, something about a porch, something about bringing things OUT OF THE DREAM, something about a bowl. Done.
    5. I struggled to care either way by the end, but I’m going with fantasist because nothing else really makes any sense.

    Whoop, this was fun. CAN’T WAIT for The Yearbook.

  • James Dawson Says:

    I’m not sure I ever read The Waitress! I love the crossover. World-in-world stuff gives me life.

  • Billy Says:

    Guys I noticed the cross over to The Waitress too! I thought I’d be the only one!

    My notes had “Tippler Twins” underlined three times. I agree Paul they were brilliant. Particularly the fact that they were called Melody Ann and Sadie Lou. What stupid but amazing names. I was slightly disappointed they didn’t feature more in the story as they we’re mean spirited and could have given old Heath a run for his money.

    Ironically, I took an age to read this novel as I kept falling asleep during it. It seemed as if I was reading the same three chapters over and over again. Katie dreams of Heath on the porch. He’s handsome but bad. Katie tries to stay awake and p’s off Heath but flirting with Jason. Heath enters the real world. Repeat ad nauseam.

    My other note was “Mexican Bowl”. Oh, how I laughed when Smith spent an entire chapter describing the thing and its beauty, only to have it smash into smithereens before the chapter had finished. Who knows what the underlying semiology was with it, but it was the one chapter that stood out for me.

    I’ve got some note about Jason flexing his biceps, bragging about how young and healthy he is, and then being in a coma minutes later.

    Why would Smith tempt us with MAXX from WAXX and not have him appear in the novel?! I was foaming at the mouth to see what a douche he’d be but never got to!

    The ending – wow. I was also left scratching my head. Something about a jungle cat medallion, a motorbike with a tendency to burst into flames, and Katie falling down a hole?!

  • Billy Says:

    By the way I write my comments on my phone which has the craziest autocorrect going so I apologise that all my reviews are grammatical nightmares. In real life I can string a sentence together, promise.

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