By Sinclair Smith.
Katie Shaw is about to turn seventeen and so far she has lived an unspectacular life, with her straitlaced family, good grades and total lack of romance. The only interesting thing about Katie is that she occasionally suffers from insomnia. But when she moves into a creepy new house and is enrolled in a new school, everything changes. It starts with a recurring dream about a sexy bad boy calling himself Heath Granger, who has the hots for her. He instils Katie with greater confidence in her looks and she starts dressing more seductively, which is quickly noticed by the boy she likes at school, Jason. She finds it suddenly easier to make friends, such as Raquelle, and for the first time in her life, Katie is popular.
But then Heath becomes possessive, especially when Katie starts dating Jason. And he’s not just bothering her in her dreams, he starts sending threatening messages in the real world too. Soon Katie dreads going to sleep, knowing she’ll have to face Heath, but she’s tired more and more of the time and falls asleep unintentionally, even at school. When Heath starts coming after Katie’s new friends, it is evidence of his increasing power and the growing threat he poses. When she confronts him, Katie discovers that Heath’s intentions are even more sinister than she could possibly have imagined, and she realises he must be stopped at any cost.
Dream Date would be a more engaging read if Katie was more likeable. But we don’t really have time to get to know her before she dreams up Heath and her troubles begin. Part Nightmare on Elm Street (but less fun), part allegory for domestic violence (but lacking the appropriate level of seriousness) it doesn’t fully satisfy on either count. Still, it is consistently entertaining, with an interesting twist and a strong finish. Dream Date is a unique entry in the PH franchise and better than its title suggests.
Dream Date is at its scariest when we are presented with evidence of Katie’s declining physical and mental health due to her self-imposed sleep deprivation. We see her personality change, her descent into madness, and her increasing isolation from her parents and friends. Also, the imagery invoked by Katie’s sleep-deprived hallucinations (melting flesh, cockroaches, ‘white worms’) is some of the most vividly gruesome in the whole PH franchise. If the character was more sympathetic (less annoying) Dream Date would earn the maximum fear factor rating. As it is, because I simply cannot bring myself to care what happens to Katie, it gets a lower, but still perfectly respectable…