31st Oct 2012
The Dream of Doctor Bantam by Jeanne Thornton
There are few things more exciting than when a book has a truly lasting effect on you, leaving you feeling unsettled or overjoyed. Jeanne Thornton‘s début novel The Dream of Doctor Bantam is a book that does just that.
Set in a dystopian society uncomfortably similar to our own, 17-year-old Julie Thatch is struggling to cope with with the death of her sister and role model Tabitha, her depressed and loveless mother and her own sexuality.
In her summer break, Julie is introduced to a member of ‘The Institute’. The Institute is a scientific research group-turned-cult that follows the teachings of the mysterious Dr Bantam.
Their theory is that they can escape the constraints of time and become ‘unbound’, giving them a higher quality of life.
Julie’s love interest is a devout member of The Institute and regularly swings between being pitifully helpless and wonderfully crazed.
Julie herself is by far the best thing about The Dream of Doctor Bantam; the strongest point in a great book.
Julie is brave and, although she tries her hardest to be aggressive and rebellious, she still cares for her nearest and dearest. She is the friend we all have who thinks she is tough as nails, but is actually a bit of a pussycat.
Another great thing about this novel is the soundtrack. Julie’s older sister is portrayed as a very cool, rebellious teenager who smokes a lot of weed and listens to a lot of fantastic music. This means that whenever Julie is sad or struggling with an issue, she listens to Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, or something else equally teen angst-y.
Thornton’s writing style is very easy to get along with. Most of the time it’s quite simple, but occasionally there will be a description that you have to go back and read several times to absorb all of its goodness.
The way Thornton conveys emotion is particularly brilliant: although Julie never lets her tough persona down you can always see what she is struggling with underneath.
The conclusion of the novel is surprising, and you will feel a uneasy for a good while afterwards. Julie Thatch is a new cult classic character and is almost a role model for edgy girls everywhere – and this is a great YA book.
Recommended for: Those who like a dark edge to their stories and who want to feel a strong bond with a character. Great for young adults too.
Other recommended reading: For more female-orientated cult classics, Jacqueline Susann‘s Valley of the Dolls is the story of women trying to make their way in the world. For something a bit more modern and a bit more YA, Melvin Burgess‘s Junk is a fantastic tale of drug abuse and a female survivor.