I’m today’s stop on the Irish Banana Blog Tour for Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham, and I can’t wait to tell you about the book. Stick around for my review, a list of the other tour stops and where you might find great stuff like Q&A with the author, AND don’t miss the chance to win one of three hardcover copies of the book in the giveaway below!
About Dreamland Burning
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 past… and the present.
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.
Through intricately interwoven alternating perspectives, Jennifer Latham’s lightning-paced page-turner brings the Tulsa race riot of 1921 to blazing life and raises important question about the complex state of US race relations – both yesterday and today.
It took me some time to get into the characters. I kind of wanted the past part of the story to be told from the point-of-view of this spunky little girl named Ruby instead of from William’s perspective. He makes some bad choices especially at the beginning, and even he knows it. It took me a while to get over that and begin to really get into his character. Eventually, I felt like he found his courage and that helped a lot.
I kind of felt the same about Rowan, too, though for different reasons. I really liked her relationship with James and the deep (but not romantic) connection they shared. The fact that they both felt like misfits made them really sympathetic characters. I found it easy to root for them to find their places and solve the mystery of the unidentified body found on Rowan’s family’s property.
One of my favorite elements of the story was the fact that it focuses on a little-known or discussed event in American history– the Tulsa race massacre. Having that story juxtaposed against a present-day setting featuring current race relations issues made for a powerful and moving tale. The writing style is a little less artful and more frank, occasionally bordering on preachy, but the story is no less important and necessary for it. The diverse character cast and spotlight on history would make this an interesting choice for a high school project. Overall, I recommend this book to historical fiction and mystery fans as well as readers looking for books that explore race relations.
Recommended for Ages 16 up.
Rowan’s mother is African American and her father Caucasian. Her best friend James is part Native American, part black and identifies as asexual. William’s mother is Native American and his father Caucasian.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity and crude language used with moderate frequency. Racial epithets used a few times.
James and Rowan pretend to be a couple to irritate an older couple watching them disapprovingly.
Brief references to prayer. At one point Rowan exclaims that James is a god because he’s found important information.
A KKK member describes brutalizing young black men and brags about killing them.
William and his friend get drunk on beer. William picks a fight while drunk and breaks his wrist. Rowan recalls the night she and James swiped a bottle of liquor and drank it together over shared secrets.
About Jennifer Latham
I’m a grown-up army brat with two kids, two dogs, and a husband. After working in a morgue, a maximum-security prison, a heroin detox, and assorted middle and high schools, I decided to try may hand at writing. Happily, it stuck.
I love watching people.
And I love writing about the characters who live inside my head—even when they don’t play nice.
Visit the Other Tour Stops!
Enter to Win the Giveaway
Three winners will receive a hardcover copy of Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham. (US/Canada only)