Book Review: Dreamseller

Dreamseller by Brandon Novak

Dreamseller is the addiction memoir of pro skateboarder turned junkie: Brandon Novak. One of the reasons I chose this book is because of Wolf Boys, my book club’s January read about two Laredo boys who join the Zetas–the powerful, prominent Mexican drug gang we as Laredoans have heard about but never really known. It’s a deep insider’s look into the violent acts these gang members committed in the name of drug smuggling. The wolf boys and their gang make a ton of money from all the pounds of heroin and cocaine that get smuggled through our Laredo border, but it made me wonder: Who is paying for all this? Where does it all end up? Who is being affected? And the real price becomes apparent in Dreamseller–into the life of Brandon Novak, a teenager in New England who falls heavy into the drug world after peaking in his skateboarding career.

I didn’t know much about Novak besides the fact I recognized his name from Viva La Bam and Jackass, but I’m glad I picked up his book; it was one wild ride. The way he laid out the timeline of events helped this book maintain that excitement. Instead of starting from “the beginning,” he throws us right into the action of a typical day in his junkie lifestyle, introducing us to his homelessness and various strained relationships. The struggle to score is palpable as we follow him in between his pursuit of eventual treatment and falling back into addiction. The dirt, grit, stench, and sickness is real and his realizations are powerful tools he uses when looking back into the past. Brandon lays out some outrageous experiences he encountered through his journey reaching that professional skateboarding high and the lows of poverty and addiction. It kept me extremely engaged and some nights I stayed up hours past my bedtime unable to put it down. The imagery is vivid and the whole thing was very well written. I don’t really have anything bad to say about it, it was just a damn good read. There were a couple of editorial errors, like a word missing here and there, but I’ve noticed that happens often in ebook versions. 

Besides these books seemingly having a connection, there was a real contrast in the formats I read them in–Wolf Boys was a hardcover print and Dreamseller was digital. While there is no feeling quite like picking up a real book and cracking the spine, I realized that a print book doesn’t really lend itself to consumption the way digital does. Reading Wolf Boys was like a whole production: I had to pick a time of day when my kids were at school and get set up on the couch making sure I had good lighting; but reading the ebook of Dreamseller on my phone meant I mostly read it lying in a dark room before bed each night, or when I ended up having to wait in real life, like at the bank or while eating lunch. And that meant that I finished it a lot faster because it was so much more accessible. So while I did love indulging in the experience of a real book, I loved being able to finish the other one so quickly. Nevertheless, they both have a place in my world, so cheers to another year filled with both!

Originally posted 20 Jan 2020

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