I stumbled across this one on Goodreads a few months back and saw it again on Libby when I was looking at my new library’s WONDERFUL collection. I checked it out and read it in about 2 days.
Some bodies won’t stay buried.
Some stories need to be told.
When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family’s property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the present and the past.
Nearly one hundred years earlier, a misguided violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self-discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what’s right the night Tulsa burns.
For some reason I thought this was a supernatural book where Rowan communicated with the skeleton’s ghost or something. I have zero idea where this notion came from, but the book is not supernatural in any way. That did throw me for a loop but once I realized I’m just crazy it all started making sense.
I really enjoyed Dreamland Burning. Overall, the book is a bit of a difficult read because of the subject matter. There were time where I wanted to keep reading but was too emotionally drained and had to take a break. The topics covered in this book- racism, hate crimes, intolerance, injustice, violence, etc.- are so important to be educated about and aware of their roles in both the past and present. Parts were difficult to read but we can’t just ignore the painful parts of history and pretend they never happened. Dreamland Burning does an amazing job of relating the Tulsa Riot Race to the current climate in the US.
Beyond the obvious political importance of the book, I loved how Rowan and Will both went through such personal transformations throughout the course of the book. Rowan was forced to check her privilege and was faced with awful racism and personal trauma because of it. Her hunt for the identity of the dead body taught her a lot about the past, the present, and how she fits into both in such a beautiful way. Will also went through a transformation as he learned to separate from the values of those around him and start thinking and acting for himself. There were definitely times where I didn’t really care for Rowan and Will’s personalities and individual chapters (though I think that does make them seem realistic) but I loved their character arcs.
There were a lot of great quotes from this book, but I really love this one and think it summarizes the entire objective of Dreamland Burning:
“I understand now that history only moves forward in a straight line when we learn from it. Otherwise it loops past the same mistakes over and over again.”
Dreamland Burning is an emotional and pretty dark book, but there’s a lot to be learned from it. I appreciate the new perspective it gave me about present-day racism as well as all the things I learned about the Tulsa Race Riot. I would definitely recommend this book. I think everyone, regardless of what books they normally read, would benefit in some way from Dreamland Burning.