Cover Image: Jake, Lucid Dreamer

Jake, Lucid Dreamer

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Member Reviews

Jake, Lucid Dreamer by David J. Naiman is a beautifully written book, and I have little criticism to make about it. Jake, Lucid Dreamer is about a boy named Jake, a middle schooler who lives with his father and his younger sister. He is dealing with grief of losing his mother, and dealing with how his grief affects himself and others around him. He begins his titular lucid dreaming after his twelfth birthday, going into a fantasy world full of sentient animals, all who seem to have very familiar personalities. It is an adventure from start to finish, going back and forth between the real world and Jake’s fantasy world of animals (I’d highly recommend accompanying these dream sequences with Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals).

Naiman’s use of imagery is very thorough and clever. It is almost always animal imagery: Jake has an unsurpassed knowledge of animals compared to his fellow characters, and so animals appear often in his life. In the real world Jake uses similes and cliches, mentioning various animals, such as “if it walks like a duck…” and “game of cat and mouse”, and others. The only physical representations of animals Jake sees in the real world are the Orangutans he must study for his science project, and the little stuffed monkey named “Beenie” that is constantly hanging from his sister’s neck.
The imagery goes deeper when Naiman takes us into Jake’s dream world. Animals end up being a coping mechanism for Jake to deal with his grief. Often people go into a fantasy world in order to cope with issues in the real world - some people get into books or movies; others, like Jake, make up their own using familiar elements. The animal world of Jake’s dreams is (almost) directly parallel to the real world, with a few twists of his own. I do not know if this was intentional, but when reading Jake’s adventures in the dream world I get some wonderful references from, if not the same vibes as The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, in which another adolescent boy is using a fantasy world filled with the personification of concepts and emotions in order to cope with the real world. It is a great connection that adults reading Jake will recognize and love. 

Naiman’s style flowed very nicely throughout the story. The transition between the real world and the dream world didn’t feel so turbulent, and the reader might also feel that they were slipping in and out of the dreams along with Jake. I do almost wish the book were a bit longer so that we could see more of the inner workings of Jake’s fantasy world. My one criticism with the style is with Jake’s dialogue, which really wasn’t a serious issue. You could definitely tell it is a teenager talking, though sometimes it seemed more like a thirteen or fourteen year old’s speech than a twelve year old’s (not that twelve year olds can’t be smart-asses, I’m sure I was at that age). 
My only other criticism for this book is that I wish the character Will had a longer role. It seemed that in the beginning Will was destined to have a much more involved role, but it didn’t end up this way. 

I believe this book will be loved by, and important for, people of all ages. Learning how to express and accept one’s emotions is challenging for both children and adults. This book shows this challenge not only in Jake’s mind, but in other characters’, for example, his father and his younger sister who are also coping with similar grief. Seeing this process develop in Jake’s characters would, I think, help its readers recognize and cope with their own emotions and/or grief. While I was reading this development in Jake’s character, I remember coming to a similar realization, that it is a slow but important process even in my own life. This book also touches on themes of facing one’s fears, learning to ask for help, and connecting with those around you, especially ones whom you love and who love you. All these are important lessons of growing up, and I know adults will appreciate this too, for their kids and for themselves. 

Overall Jake, Lucid Dreamer is a fantastic story. The reader will go through all the powerful emotions Jake feels all the way to the ending, which is absolutely heartwarming. Did the ending make me cry? You bet it did, in the best way possible. There need to be more books like this.
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Jake’s mom died about a year ago.  Since then things aren’t the same. For example, he’s been having the same lucid dream the entire time, hosted by a crazy kangaroo, turtles, and other creatures. But, could taking control of his dream prevent his brain from dealing with reality? Jake’s family seems to be in taters and he is being bullied at school. Can he fix both reality and his dream world?

This book displays great character growth and deals with difficult issues. This book is a good choice for middle-grade readers who are dealing with the death of a loved one.
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The story is told from the point of view of 12-year-old angsty and pessimistic Jake, who lost his mother years ago. Jake seeks refuge through his dreams, where he has the power to control himself to do anything at will. 

At first, it’s frustrating how easily the main protagonist shows his anger. I can’t help but roll my eyes every single time he snaps at the wrong time. But I keep forgetting he’s just a child whose mother had passed away, which clearly shows his effort in trying to hide his pain and shrug it off. The love he has for his mother is so strong, I shed a few tears during his recounts of her when she started to show her sickness. Suffice to say I shed more tears later on.

Jake can easily be a reflection of all of us. We often look for ways to run away from our miseries, fantasizing of a perfect life where we can control anything, only to find that, in reality, it keeps sucking us deeper into the depressing void. Jake teaches us that we have to take the courage to accept the cause of the pain, otherwise, it just lingers and hurts us even more.

The book shows that there is no need for fancy words or metaphors to elicit emotions. It simply needs a clever and straightforward thinker to express thoughts. By this, I mean having a child’s perspective of things, which is why Jake, Lucid Dreamer is quite possibly the most realistic account of a person coping with loss. 

Aside from being easy to read and interesting, the book can also be summed up in two words:

“Very witty."
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