Book Review: Reverie, by Ryan La Sala
Unpredictable, original, and unapologetically queer, Reverie was a glittery, phantasmagoric adventure that grabbed me with its filigree talons and refused to let go. I stepped into this book without really reading the synopsis because I follow the author on twitter—he is absolutely hilarious—and I figured I’d go on somewhat of a blind book date. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into other than a YA queer fantasy. Damn, I was not disappointed.
All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember how he got there, what happened after, and why his life seems so different now. And it’s not just Kane who’s different, the world feels off, reality itself seems different.
As Kane pieces together clues, three almost-strangers claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere—the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery—Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident. And when a sinister force threatens to alter reality for good, they will have to do everything they can to stop it before it unravels everything they know.
This wildly imaginative debut explores what happens when the secret worlds that people hide within themselves come to light.
Kane is the one of the only (if not the only) out gay teens in a small Connecticut town. If that didn’t complicate his life enough, he wakes from an accident with no recollection of it, not how he drove his dad’s car into a town historical site or why he has burns etched in a circle around his head. Not only is his memory of the incident missing, Kane can’t seem to recall much of the summer or chunks of the last few years.
At first, Kane isn’t the most likable character; he’s fearful, brooding, and treats those around him with more than a little mistrust, but, given the circumstances, it’s understandable. The police want answers Kane doesn’t have, his sister doesn’t believe he’s being honest about his amnesia, and Kane can’t remember anything beside a lonely existence before the accident.
I don’t want to spoil any part of this book because the plot is wonderfully chaotic and it would be a shame to unspool it. That being said, it would be a disservice not to mention how fantastic the reveries were. Before Kane can get a grasp on his life and figure out who he can trust, he and his friends are thrown into a reverie, the mentally conjured alternate reality of a stranger. The reveries were stories themselves, rich in scenery and depth, with fantastical settings and individual story lines. Reveries are, in the simplest explanation, a person’s daydream turned reality. Those around the person are thrown into the reverie, as if it replaces their reality completely. They have no memory of the world they left behind and are at the whims of the reverie’s plot, besides the Others, who are the only lucid people. Even the reverie’s owners are unaware the reverie isn’t reality.
“Reveries are what happens when a person’s imagined world becomes real. They’re like miniature realities, with their own plots and rules and perils.”
Unbelievably detailed, the reveries were stories themselves, rich in scenery and depth I wasn’t expecting. The way La Sala switches from reality to reverie was clear and didn’t leave me wondering where the hell we were and the transitions were cinematic though not too jarring.
I loved how the plot of each reverie seemingly had a mind of its own and did not appreciate any deviation from the original plans. There was quite a bit of action throughout the book, especially in the reveries and it was executed very well. The action is composed with elegance and never left me wondering what was happening.
The romantic aspect between Kane and his love interest was a bit hard to follow, probably because the relationship began before the accident and, with Kane having no memory of its existence, was already established in a sense. I was left with the same feeling regarding his relationship with his friends. The depth was there but it was hard to see the dynamic because Kane was unsure of who to trust for a majority of the story.
“Witches interest me,” Dr. Posey said. “If you look at most female archetypes—the mother, the virgin, the whore—their power comes from their relation to men. But not the Witch. The Witch derives her power from nature. She calls forth her dreams with spells and incantations. With poetry. And I think that’s why we are frightened of them. What’s scarier to the world of men than a woman limited only by her imagination?”
The best character, at least my favorite, was the flamboyant, exuberant sorceress drag queen, Posey. Her descriptions were decadent and, at times, perhaps overindulgent (in the best way possible). La Sala painted her expertly as a morally ambiguous beauty who longed for her own world.
Reverie is a whirlwind of magic manifesting as rainbows bursting from hands (yes, really) and finding inner strength from the rubble of trauma but also how people create fantastical worlds within themselves to escape the realities that refuse to allow them to live their lives authentically.
“Dreams can be parasites we sacrifice ourselves to. Dreams can be monstrous, beautiful things incubated in misery and hatched by spite. Or dreams can be the artifacts we excavate to discover who we really are.”
4 out of 5 Rainbows
Recommended readers: If you’re looking for an explosively queer fantasy book with beautiful prose and LGBTQ+ rep, give Reverie a try. I cannot wait to see what other incredible worlds La Sala can craft.