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BOOK REVIEW: Reverie by Ryan La Sala (5 Stars)

Book cover of Reverie, depicting the title in white swirly letters on a dark blue background with light blue, light pink, and orange dots and swirls

Rating: 5/5

Five star rating represented by five bumblebees

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.

It’s been a while since I’ve come across such an unexpected instant favourite. Reverie by Ryan La Sala was vaguely on my radar, but I wasn’t planning on picking it up. That is, until it popped up in my library’s recent acquisitions and I was seduced by the stunning cover. Can you blame me?

The blurb describes Reverie as “Inception meets The Magicians in the most imaginative YA debut of the year!” I don’t think that comparison does the book justice in its whimsy and in all its queer glory. La Sala’s writing completely submerged me in a dream-like atmosphere that felt both magical and chaotic, taking on a more and more nightmare-ish quality the deeper you get. The suspense of Kane trying to recover his memories in order to understand all of the strangeness he keeps encountering kept me turning page after page, barely able to put the book down at all.

The diverse cast of characters was a delight from start to finish. From our Latinx gay protagonist, Kane; to his elusive love interest; to his group of maybe-friends, a Jewish boy, a strong tall athletic girl, a black sapphic ballerina; to a mysterious black drag queen who seems to hold the keys to Kane’s lost memories; and finally to Kane’s (I think) bisexual sister… there’s not a single character I didn’t love.

Kane shoved down his curiosity, knowing it was useless to expect a drag queen to do anything other than exactly what she wanted.

As much as I love Kane’s romantic story arc, I love a strong connection between siblings even more. For a while, it seems that Kane’s secrecy might be destroying their relationship, but in the end the love Kane and his sister Sophia have for each other is central to the story’s conclusion.

There was one thing I found frustrating: Kane’s complete inability to do as he’s told, even when he is aware of the dangers of going rogue. There were some huge mishaps that could have been avoided if that boy hadn’t been so goddamn bullheaded! In the end, it was easy to forgive his stubborness, because he ultimately has a big heart and just wants to do what’s right. I also caught a couple of instances of him potentially being coded as neurodivergent. They were few and far between so I hesitate to tag for disability representation, but there is definitely subtext if you’re looking for it.

He shook himself out, hopping in a small circle, then hopping in the reverse direction to undo the coil. These small rituals often worked for him, and the tension eased from his body.

I could have easily quoted a dozen passages from the book; it’s so beautifully written, so atmospheric and submersive. It also just feels queer, and not only because of the many queer characters. La Sala has imbued his writing with queerness in a way that I think will make many a queer reader feel as welcome in the world he has created as I did. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves magical realism, teenage friendship, and a thrilling mystery needing to be solved before the clock runs out.

Have you read Reverie by Ryan La Sala? What do you think? Did you love it as much as I did?! Let’s chat in the comments!

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