What Is Real

  • Pages:304
  • Publisher:Orca Book Publishers
  • Themes:family life, alienation, drug use, marijuana, pot
  • Pub Date:05/01/2011
  • Age Groups:Fiction Ages 12+
  • Lexile:HL520L
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Dex Pratt’s life has been turned upside down. His parents have divorced and his mother has remarried. When his father attempts suicide and fails, Dex returns to their small town to care for him. But he’s not prepared for how much everything has changed. Gone are the nice house, new cars, fancy bikes and other toys. Now he and his wheelchair-bound dad live in a rotting rented house at the back of a cornfield. And, worse, his father has given up defending marijuana growers in his law practice and has become one himself.

Unable to cope, Dex begins smoking himself into a state of surrealism. He begins to lose touch with what is real and what he is imagining. And then there are the aliens...and the girl-of-his-dreams...and the crop circle...
"An excellent example of what happens to a person's mind when they are on drugs."
– Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group
"Rivers writes in a first-person present-tense narrative that is true to a young stoner's wild, muddled viewpoint...Even if teens skim over some passages, the story's central dramas will hold them: a lost kid, angry and loving, who cares for a disabled parent as he tries to block out secrets and lies."
– Booklist
"An intriguing read...The reader is left with interesting thoughts to ponder upon—what's real and what's a dream? Highly Recommended."
– CM Magazine
"An edgy and surreal teen read...Rivers challenges readers to think about their own perceptions of reality, to think about the validity and reliability of memory, and most of all, to ask the question that makes up the title of this book—what is real?"
– Readingtimbits.blogspot.com
"A tale of teenage angst exceptionally written in lyrical, hallucinogenic prose...Interspersed throughout the novel, Dex breaks from first-person narrative to a screenplay outline. This method of storytelling eloquently conveys the out-of-body distancing Dex employs to not only avoid pain, but to embrace and digest his roiling emotions...This novel satisfies as a realistic young adult title and soulful rendering of teenage foibles. It will appeal to reluctant readers."
– Library Media Connection
"Rivers has a unique voice and uses this talent to create a complicated novel about the possible dangers of teen drug abuse....The novel's themes of expectation and change are very well handled."
– Southwest Ohio and Neighboring Libraries (SWON)
"One of the most compelling aspects of this novel is that, just like Dex, the reader cannot fully decipher what is real...Rivers' prose is splintered and abrupt, just like human thoughts can be, and her writing style creates a sense of immediacy and confusion by throwing the reader into the middle of the action...Rivers has capably illuminated the teenage struggle to cope with life's challenges: losing loved-ones, being neglected, realizing you may not achieve your dreams and dealing with failure."
– BC Bookworld
"Dex is an appealing character...He has an essential honesty and a kind of self-awareness that causes the reader to empathize with his awful plight...We are sucked into Dex's quite extraordinary imagination which kind of takes us as the readers into a kind of unanticipated surrealism."
– Resource Links
Resource Links "The Year's Best"   | 2011  |  Commended
BC Book Prize - Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize nominee   | 2012  |  Short-listed
Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year   | 2012  |  Commended
CCBC Best Books   | 2012  |  Commended