Review: As a 12-year-old boy, there are few things more terrifying than girls and nightmares. Worse yet, nightmares with girls as the main subject. But that’s exactly what three close friends, Ryan, Joe, and Mitchell, ready to relax before having to go back to school in the fall, have in common — the same nightmare, night after night, of a girl who sucks them into her world with her icy blue eyes. After several nights of this, they enlist their smarty-pants (yes, that is a technical term) classmate to watch them sleep and see what may be causing the terrors. Instead, Marc gets sucked in along with them, and this time, the four boys are transported.
They find themselves in an alternate universe in which the dates are current, but everything else has changed. Prices are cheap. Cars appear to be antiques. After doing research at the local library, the boys learn that many of the world’s most historic effects, like World War II, haven’t happened in this world.
But worse yet, they can’t be transported back to their universe until they save the little girl from their dreams, who they learn has been kidnapped in this universe. A life-or-death adventure in an unfamiliar alternate universe — just what every young teenage boy needs.
Analysis: The Eye-Dancers is a YA sci-fi/fantasy novel that sets out with a clear purpose, taking the idea of something we’ve seen a million times before (a coming-of-age story) and putting a twist on it (by setting it in an alt-world). The story accomplishes one of its goals, that is, the sci-fi/fantasy part of the novel. There’s good adventure in the mystery of the ghost girl and her kidnapping. But the coming-of-age part of the novel feels forced at times.
Each boy is given his own problem at home to identify with; Mitchell’s parents are fighting; Marc wants another sibling; Joe’s older brother is the quintessential golden boy; Ryan feels pressured to live up to his reputation at school. Between the four boys, it’s a lot to keep track of. Some characters’ problems have a more gradual development throughout the book that allows them to grow as people. But the others seem to have epiphanies, seemingly out of nowhere, during which they realize that they need to view life differently.
The end of the novel isn’t completely satisfying. The boys get their “happily ever after” moment that the reader wants for them. But the sci-fi part of the story is never fully explained. Neither the characters nor the reader come to understand why the boy were transported to an alternate universe, what this place really is, or how they got there. Was it all a dream? We don’t know — though, there’s something to be said for the author likely choosing an open-ended resolution such as this.
MVP: Mitchell. His character shows the most character development in the novel, and his is done in a logical, gradual way. Of all the boys, Mitchell is the one we come to know best, and the one we come to love.