Alice: From Dream To Dream is a powerful new original graphic novel (OGN) from BOOM! Studios. Author & illustrator Giulio Macaione gifts us with a gorgeously drawn story of Alice, a young woman who has just moved back to Cincinnati due to her father’s loss of a job.
Stuck sharing a room with her older brother, Alice constantly finds herself running from the zombies or monsters inhabiting her brother’s nightmares. Getting little to no sleep makes everything harder. The only bright side of the move is that she is back with her childhood friend, Jaime, but even that friendship is fraught with difficulty.
Giulio Macaione does an excellent job bringing us an engaging story with timely elements that everyone can relate to – empathy and struggle.
Alice shares the dreams of those she sleeps near. While it’s easy to see this type of forced empathy as a good thing or cool power, Macaione makes it clear that it is more difficult than we might imagine.
Her brother binges on horror movies and has nightmares. This means Alice is stuck in his nightmares, like it or not. At least until she wakes him up – a point that becomes extremely important later in the story.
Relatable Reality In Alice: From Dream to Dream
In a society where most families require two incomes to make ends meet, Alice’s family is an everyman.
Like most families, the loss of her father’s job and income impacts the whole family. Macaione does a great job illustrating how Alice’s family is dealing with their monetary struggles. They’re surviving, but a few shortcuts have to be taken, such as the shared room. The strain on her parents is visible but not over the top. They love their kids and try to reach past their stress to express it.
Characters Worth Caring About
Macaione’s characters are diverse in personality and well-rounded. One the whole, his cast feels very much like the America I lived in growing up.
Each character comes across as a real person, not an archetype. Alice’s Dad is particularly a great character in how he is honest with his daughter and advocates for her. Alice’sMom is a loving character fighting with an internal conflict of her own, one she hasn’t shared with Alice. This is a particularly good plot point as parents often try to protect their children from their own private pain.
Alice herself is a well-done representation of a fifteen-year-old girl with all the challenges of attending a public school. Her sleep deprivation affects her precisely as is would you or I – she’s cranky and moody. She is not always cranky and moody – she has ups and downs, making her extremely relatable. She sincerely cares about her family and friends. She is insecure about her spot in life but does her best. She is every girl between 13 and 17.
Jaime, her best friend, is equally well-done. He is a devoted friend rather than a trope-laden love interest. That’s part of what makes this story so great. The dynamic between them is two people who have been really close friends since childhood and remain close. Jaime’s personality remains consistent even as it evolves with the discovery of a terrible family secret. He remains committed to his friend and determined to protect her.
Even the bully and her guardian are given a decent degree of depth. If there was an over the top character, I might say it was the bully but when we are given the reason for her attitude, it’s not as farfetched as most. I also liked that her guardian was neither encouraging nor condoning the bully’s behavior. That’s a trope I was glad to see absent here.
Secrets Upon Secrets
The depth of friendship between Jaime and Alice is a driving force in Alice: From Dream To Dream. We see how it was, and we see how it is, then we are faced with terrible possibilities for them both, as people and as friends.
Alice’s mother has a secret. She struggles to face forcing Alice to share a room with her brother rather than getting the attic converted to a room. This is because the attic holds more pain than her mother can face at this point.
Jaime accidentally discovers a deeply buried family secret hidden in his father’s study. The secret alone is enough to tear a family apart but when Jaime realizes the link it forges between his family and Alice’s, it’s more than he can bear.
It falls to Alice to explore the history between their families, and to discover who the girl is that she saw in the cemetery pond. With Jaime withdrawing from her, she begins to untangle the web. But with Jaime’s life on the line and the secrets buried deep, she’ll only be able to unearth the past by invading Jaime’s dreams!
Grown Ups Aren’t Evil
Macaione’s expressive emotionalism keeps us turning pages eagerly. While the idea that dreams are powerful isn’t really new, it’s the way that Alice: From Dream To Dream addresses Alice’s ability that is more solid and grounded than many other stories.
A secret ability that brings pain and struggles, but must be kept secret, is an excellent analogy for how tweens and teens struggle to be accepted for their true selves. I also loved that, overall, the adults were not treated as the “bad guys” but rather humans with good points (i.e. Dr. Snow’s openness to Alice’s power) and flaws (i.e. Jaime’s father’s irrational dislike of Alice). That’s the most refreshing part of this story. While this is easily a kids’ adventure book, the adults on the whole helpful and supportive. It sends a much better message to all when parents and teachers aren’t an enemy to hide from and mistrust.
Conclusion: Alice: From Dream To Dream Is a Great Read
If you haven’t already picked up your copy of Alice: From Dream To Dream, I highly recommend it. Macaione’s illustration shines in the dreamscapes, capturing how powerful, beautiful, and terrifying the subconscious can be. A large part of the story takes place in Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery, and the feel of the location is a perfect blend of serenity and isolation.
It could be said that Alice: From Dream To Dream is the story of Secrets and Exhaustion. Each of the characters is struggling with different kinds of weariness — physical, emotional, and mental — and their reactions are sympathetic. Macaione makes the reader care deeply for these characters in spite of it being a single-issue story.
The ending is exciting and gratifying. It’s a story that doesn’t let everything end perfectly but it is quite satisfying in how it does work out.
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