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Bad Cree by Jessica Johns

Dreams are usually something that needs to be stayed away from - according to most creative writing courses. They are trite and inevitably end with that infamous last ‘then I woke up’. Like the studying of dreams - which old mate Freud managed to stall with his obsession with sexual elements thus creating awkward conversations when someone begins - you were in my dream last night. However, to bring it back to Jessica Johns’ new novel Bad Cree where dreams take centre stage in the narrative, there is a freshness to the way she explores the real impact that dreams have on ourselves.

Constructing a violent and realistic impressionistic portrait of the liminal space between dream and thoughts, Cree, the young woman at the centre of the action, has dreams that take her on a journey into the world of the subconscious, but also seemingly guided towards some realisation for her waking life. She wakes up in what can only be described as a visceral scene where she finds the decapitated head of a crow in her bed and in her hands.

The writing is well constructed with plausible sequences and the appropriate level of attention paid to the dialogue - a personal frustration of most new YA texts. Actually, perhaps that is a misnomer, labelling Bad Cree as YA may do it some disservice. The narrative is intricate and offers enough structurally and linguistically for more mature readers to take away from the text.

Hailing from Canada with a connection to the First Nation peoples of the land, Johns demonstrates a real talent in the connection between waking life and dreaming, giving the impression of the spiritual world and its impact on the day to day existence of the ‘real world’ that sits so comfortably in the narratives of first nation peoples.

The revelations of Cree as she battles these waking dreaming moments and the connection it has with the family are truly intriguing for the reader and guide them through the journey alongside Cree with skill and ability. It’s dark, and there are some horrific sequences, but the construction of the supernatural really is something worth noting.

Overall, loved this book. It sits in a genre of its own and creates an otherworldliness that is rare in modern novel writing. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Chris Reed



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