Book Review: Life is But a Dream by Brian James

life is but a dream


Title: Life is But a Dream
Author: Brian James
Published in: 2012
Pages: 234
Genres: romance, contemporary fiction, realistic fiction, mental health/mental illness


“Sabrina, an artist, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her parents check her into the Wellness Center. There she meets Alec, who is convinced it’s the world that’s crazy, not the two of them. They are meant to be together; they are special. But when Alec starts to convince Sabrina that her treatment will wipe out everything that makes her creative, she worries that she’ll lose hold of her dreams and herself. Should she listen to her doctor? her decision may have fatal consequences.

Brian James calls Life is But a Dream “the most intense book I’ve written. Bringing this unique character to life and seeing the world through her eyes, with all its beauty and confusion, was an immense challenge that I hope is just as rewarding to read as it was to write.” Intense–yes. Unforgettable–definitely.”

-from Goodreads

My Review

Sabrina is schizophrenic. She sees things that no one else sees and hears things no one else hears. For her, the colors swirl in the sky and there’s this noise and static that’s always present. That’s why she’s at the Wellness Center, for treatment for schizophrenia. She’s always thought she was special. People used to think she was special in a good way too, but now they think she’s special in a wrong way, one that needs to be fixed. When she meets Alec at the Wellness Center, she instantly likes him. He makes her feel special in a good way again. He’s the only one who understands her. But then he tries to convince her that it’s everyone else who’s delusional, not them and that they’re just trying to make her exactly like everyone else. He urges her stop taking her medication and to stop telling anyone at the hospital anything. But when the results may be fatal, he realizes that her condition may be more serious that he thought.

Sabrina was often frustrating and annoying with her delusions and paranoia. I know it’s part of her illness and that she wouldn’t act that way if she could help it, but I couldn’t help getting frustrated with her. At the beginning, I felt that Alec was a bad influence on her, so I didn’t like him too much. I thought that maybe he was delusional himself because he seemed convinced that everyone else is crazy and that the doctors only wanted to make them like everyone else by taking away what’s special about them. But throughout the story and by the end, I began to like him more as he was shown to be sweet and caring for her.

I mainly thought the plot was interesting enough and pretty quick paced. I found it confusing at parts. The story is made up of the present, her memories, and her hallucinations and dreams. I really couldn’t understand what she was trying to say when she was talking about her hallucinations/dreams or what they even were. I wish it would’ve been clearer.

The book focuses a lot on Sabrina’s delusion that it will just be her and Alec and everything will be perfect if they did this one thing. That thing turns out to be walking in the ocean by the Santa Monica pier into the center of the sun. Sabrina thinks this is true and wants it so much, she almost dies from drowning in the ocean. But instead she is saved by Alec, who turns out isn’t delusional like she is. He agreed with and understood her about this, but in a theoretical and idea sense, not a literal one.

This is the first book I’ve read that’s narrated by a character with schizophrenia. I know only a little bit about schizophrenia, so I don’t know if it was a realistic portrayal or not. But this book inspired me to learn more about it and made me curious to know what it’s really like to have schizophrenia in real life.

The ending was for the most part predictable. I liked how she wasn’t “cured” and that her schizophrenia didn’t go away just because she finished her treatment at the hospital. Alec too had his problems and they weren’t all solved, but I think he was working on them. Like I said I don’t know that much about schizophrenia, but I felt that the ending was too fast. I mean, she’d only been back at the hospital for a month before she was treated and was being released. I know she’d been at the hospital for three months before that, but she hadn’t made too much progress. I just felt that this was unrealistic.

I liked Life is But a Dream and would recommend it to someone looking for a novel about schizophrenia or mental health/mental illness in general.

Rating: 4/5 Stars


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