Book Review: Dreamland Burning

In 1921, a rash argument over a pretty girl propels 17-year-old Will Tillman into a hotbed of racial tension in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As he begins to understand what Jim Crow really means, he faces difficult decisions between what is expected and what is right. Nearly 100 years later, 17-year-old Rowan Chase discovers a skeleton under the floorboards of her family’s backhouse. As she investigates the murder, she learns firsthand that history isn’t entirely in the past.

The author of Scarlett Undercover, Jennifer Latham doesn’t shy away from the hard truth in her new historical novel, Dreamland Burning. The two protagonists take parallel journeys as they unwittingly step outside their lives of relative privilege and open their eyes to the grim realities of their respective societies. And what makes these characters so special is that they’re nothing special. Rowan and Will and their friends, even more richly developed in Will’s chapters than Rowan’s, are honest renderings of young people experiencing and navigating injustice for the first time.

Dreamland Burning is a critical look at race relations today, bringing to light the abuses we often pretend disappeared with Jim Crow, but that we must face head-on if we want to continue moving forward as a society. Latham’s prose will captivate readers from start to finish as she moves seamlessly back and forth between Will’s difficult coming of age and Rowan’s discovery of what history left behind.

(This review was originally published on BookPage)

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