Dream Smashers was a very difficult read for me. Not because I didn't understand or like it but because it deals with some very tough topics in a very bold, real way. At times elegant, at times thoroughly visceral, the story dives right into meth addiction from the point of view of the addict as well as those around them including family.
The narrator is Autumn whose mother is as toxic as they come, addicted to meth and angry about her past choices and mistakes. Autumn's voice is snarky and funny and very intelligent in spite of her sometimes poor grammar and foul language. With a mother who constantly invades her life and turns it upside down, it's no wonder Autumn's viewpoint is so raw with emotion and frustration and hopelessness. Enter Evan, who appears to be the epitome of light and goodness who comes armed with words of truth and hope and with an easy, sometimes cheesy manner. The two are so well written together that everything else in the plot seems to fall away in the moments when they are together. The romance is gentle and sweet and I enjoyed every second of it.
The other characters are equally well-written and layered. Every one seems to go on a transforming journey through the story, from the supposed drug pushing popular girl to the rough, trouble-magnet best friend. I was so impressed with how each character had their own personal story which we were treated to at least partially through the events of the story as well as layers which were peeled back slowly in response to the central metamorphosis of Autumn's life because of her interactions with Evan.
Parts of this book were so uplifting that it was a joy to read. The scenes of hope and love were just as well-crafted as those that were dark and angry with drugs and alcohol and their aftermaths. Ms. Carlie is a wordsmith (she discovered myriad new and fascinating ways for Jacinda to drop the f-bomb) and her writing transported me from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, sometimes within seconds. I felt what Autumn felt, lived her life for the entire journey of the book. This is truly an amazing coming of age story with an element of faith that I had not expected to find.
I especially appreciated the building up and toppling down of a false beacon of hope for Autumn. Watching her realize that she has a more lasting and real source of hope in Evan and what he brings to her through his faith was one of the best parts of this story.
I could probably extol the merit of this work of art for hours. It reminded me of the brilliant way in which Lauren Myracle wove the story in Shine. Ms. Carlie should be praised for her bravery with the subject matter and for her exquisite writing style. Dream Smashers might be shorter than most YA novels on the market at the moment but there is no fluff; it is completely full of life and action. It is a must read for anyone who enjoys books dealing with heavy social issues and those who are fans of coming of age stories with hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. I encourage everyone to read this book though. Bravo, Ms. Carlie.