Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien, Roaring Brook Press, 2014. ISBN: 9781596439382. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.
Rosie is one of 100 gifted kids, plucked from every economic strata to have a shot at finishing in the top 50 slots at an elite school for the talented and creative. She’s a film maker and it was her amazing video of her little sister back home by the railroad car they live in where the train was abandoned in the Arizona desert that got her into the school. Every moment of the students’ day is filmed live for a cosmic reality show and the viewer reactions are what gives kids their rank. Rosie’s not really a celebrity type, so her rank is near the bottom. She’d love to climb into the top 50, but her personality isn’t competitive. Then she intervenes when she sees one of the cooks hit Linus, a kitchen worker in the eye. Sparks fly, both of indignation and attraction. Rosie and Linus kiss and her rating jumps. When some of the students in her media class suggest ways to bump her rating, she goes along, but it’s her idea to film the very last ranked kids in the class that sparks a groundswell of support that squeaks her into the 50th spot.
It doesn’t take Rosie long to start breaking rules. She cheeks her sleeping pill and wanders around at night. At first it’s because she wants to experience the rain up on the roof, but when she starts seeing odd stuff happening—other girls sleeping pods being wheeled off in the night and film images mysteriously erased from her camera that she begins to suspect things are a lot more sinister than she ever believed.
I don’t want to post any spoilers, but what she and Linus uncover is uber creepy and there are some real toe-curling passages near the end. I will say that the closer I got to finishing the book, the more I began to suspect the ending would be anything like neatly wrapped up because there simply weren’t enough pages left. I was right, but you’ll have to read the book yourself to understand why. If you are okay with unsettling endings that keep you thinking long after you close the cover, then this is your kind of book. There should be a sequel, but if not, feel free to write your own epilogue in your head. One lingering question: What the heck happened to Linus???