The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker | “Isn’t the future always an imaginary thing before it comes?”

If you go into this book hoping to get a thrilling science fiction world setting, you’ll be disappointed. This is a Literary Fiction with just a little bit of a dystopian element that helps to propel the plot forward. This is a book that focuses heavily on characters’ choices, believes, their wishes and dreams. 

«The Dreamers» by Karen Thompson Walker isn’t a book for everyone. Surprisingly, after a very “rough” start, I slowly fell in love with the story and many beautiful quotes.

goodreads blurb:

One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep – and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town.

Those affected by the illness are displaying levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams – but of what? 

Written in luminous prose, The Dreamers is a breathtaking and beautiful novel, startling and provocative, about the possibilities contained within a human life – in our waking days and, perhaps even more, in our dreams. 



1 – The whole idea of a mysterious “sleeping” virus descending unexpectedly on a small secluded village sounded so interesting that I didn’t even bother to check this book on GoodReads instantly ordering it from the online book store! The description seemed similar to the «Sleeping Beauties» by Stephen and Owen King, and even though I haven’t read it, I’ve heard some great things about the book, so, of course, I was interested in a similar concept!

I’ve only read one of Stephen King’s novels before, but I’m very sure that this book is nothing like the «Sleeping Beauties». So if you like that concept of the sleeping virus, but prefer to read Literary Fiction instead of horror/thrillers, «The Dreamers» might be the book for you! 

2 – I can’t say that I connected with the characters, and the jumping from one point of view to another had its negative effect on me. However, as I read more and more, as I got to know the characters better, I actually grew somewhat attached to them. Maybe I didn’t exactly care if they lived or died, but I understood their personalities. 

3 – Karen Thompson Walker doesn’t explain everything. She leaves a lot of questions unanswered, inviting the reader to come up with the answers on their own. This style could be frustrating for some, but it felt right to not have the answers to all the what? where? and how?

Where did the virus come from? What did actually happen to people who fell ill? What were they dreaming about?

These questions and many more will be interpreted differently by every reader, depending on their own experiences, their own take on the book and the story itself.  


1 – My one and biggest complaint is the writing style. Emily May described it perfectly, saying:

“There’s this sense that you are looking down on everything from a distance; through a haze.”

Emily May

That’s exactly how it feels reading this book. Karen Thompson Walker is not one of those writers whose voice sucks you in the story, her writing isn’t immersive and takes a while to adapt to. And that is a huge minus for a reader like me who awaits those moments when you can lose yourself in the story, stop seeing the world around and your mind dives into the book. 

As I was reading the book, I kept writing down notes and here’re some of my incoherent thoughts:

  • page 15: “I love the idea, but the writing style is a little peculiar.”
  • page 47: “The writing is still not (underlined twice) good! It’s overly complex and distracting, I keep skimming through the pages, unable to focus on the story.”
  • page 49: “I’m considering to DNF it…”
  • page 113: “The writing is still not the best, but the story! WOW!” 
  • page 125: “… I want more substance and less descriptive useless sentences.”
  • page 206: “The writing is unnecessary flourish. The book is 300 pages long but if we cut out all the pointless sentences, it could be a 150 pages book.”

My rating:

After finishing the book I actually gave it 4 stars, but now that I had written this review and had some time to think about it, I’m actually going to lower the rating to 3 stars. I would still recommend this book, however, I’m aware that it might not be for everyone. But re-reading my thoughts on the writing style, I realized that it did bother a lot (clearly) that all my notes contained some sort of feedback on the writing.

Have you read any books by Karen Thompson Walker?


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2 thoughts on “The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker | “Isn’t the future always an imaginary thing before it comes?”

  1. LMAO! I love the description of your thoughts during certain pages … that made me giggle. I feel that with books though. It’s a shame about the writing style. I’ve had to DNF for those reasons as well. But the rest of it sounds pretty cool! I might borrow it from the library one day. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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