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Dream On, Amber

Review

Dream On, Amber

DREAM ON, AMBER by Emma Shevah features nearly 12-year-old Amber Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto. Not surprisingly, she prefers to go by just Amber. Amber lives in South London with her six-year-old sister, Bella and their mother. Amber’s father left the family when she was young and she hasn’t seen him since. This is one of the main conflicts of the story. Amber says of her father leaving,

“My dad leaving feels like there’s this massive black hold in me, like the ones up there in space. It twists in a dark, silent spiral, super heavy, sucking some of the good things in and swallowing them up. I don’t know why it bothers me so much when I’ve lived nearly half my life without him but there are times when that black hole crushes me from the inside. But that’s only sometimes.” (p. 9).

Bella’s birthday is approaching and she begins writing letters to their absent father. She gives the letters to Amber to mail, but instead, Amber opens them and responds to them as if she were their father. In her letters, Bella is insistent that their father attend her upcoming birthday party, but Amber tries to respond in such ways as to gently dissuade Bella from these ideas. Bella still can’t be swayed, however, and Amber struggles with how to admit to her sister that she has been posing as their father and responding to Bella’s letters. She realizes that this discussion will also reveal the fact that their father is likely never coming back.

A strong example of contemporary realistic fiction.

Amber’s life is filled with other conflicts as well. She is half Italian and half Japanese and struggles to figure out what she “is” and how she fits in. She wants to know more about her Japanese side, as that comes from her father, but he is not there to tell her about it. Her mother and Italian grandmother, Nonna, keep her Italian side alive.  Shevah represents Amber’s multiple cultures at the beginning of each chapter, numbering each in English, Italian and Japanese.

As the book opens, Amber is nervous about starting middle school. The social aspect of middle school is made more difficult because, unlike her classmates, Amber doesn’t have a smart phone, meaning that can’t participate in many of the social activities that center around the phones. School becomes a scarier place when Amber unintentionally has a run-in with one of the school’s bullies, Joanne, who threatens to throw Amber into a trash can. Amber is not sure she is going to make it out of middle school germ-free, or even alive.

Because Amber is an artist, the entire book is decorated with drawings and doodles. Amber uses her art as a way of processing her thoughts and emotions, which provides another layer of depth to the novel and Amber’s personality.

DREAM ON, AMBER is a strong example of contemporary realistic fiction. It addresses modern topics, such as fitting in, bullying and growing up, that many readers will be able to relate to. Amber is a unique and relatable voice for what it means to have a multicultural background. The novel also provides insight into single parent households and the impact this may have on the children in the family. Finally, it was fun to see occasional snatches of British culture.

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on October 20, 2015

Dream On, Amber
by Emma Shevah

  • Publication Date: October 6, 2015
  • Genres: Children's 9-12, Family
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
  • ISBN-10: 1492622508
  • ISBN-13: 9781492622505