Title: Dealing in Dreams
Author: Lilliam Rivera
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 5th 2019
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not influence my review**
“At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.
Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That roles brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search for a mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles other crews and her own doubts, but the closer she gets to her goal, the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone— she cares about.
Nalah must do the unspeakable to get what she wants—a place to call home. But is a home just where you live? Or who you choose to protect?”
Lilliam Rivera’s Dealing in Dreams exhibits impressive world-building, but left me wanting more in terms of characters. In Mega City, violence rules the streets. Nalah, known as Chief Rocka, and her crew, Las Mal Criadas, patrol the streets, keeping the people in check and enjoy the occasional spoils at the local clubs known as boydegas. For Nalah, the ultimate goal is to find a place next to Mega City’s leader Déesse, to live in the Mega Towers, where the privileged live in luxury. When an outsider threatens everything Mega City stands for, Las Mal Criadas venture to Cemi Territory, to infiltrate a crew that supposedly disbanded years ago. But on the outside, Chief Rocka faces unexpected challenges and discovers her beloved city may not be the perfect utopia she’s been led to believe.
Lilliam Rivera’s world held a surprise at every turn. The ruler of Mega City, Déesse, is from a line of women who helped rebuild the city after a devastating earthquake. But it wasn’t only buildings that were reconstructed, society itself was reimagined. Mega City became a matriarchy; women rule over men and men are expected to defer to women. This was such an interesting concept to explore. Men’s bodies were exploited in a way that we see women’s and women no longer had to worry about their bodies seen as sexual objects. Young girls are recruited and taught how to fight. If they survive training, they have a chance to join a five-member gang and prove their worth to Déesse. Toilers are the lowest class, producing goods, but never able to climb the social ladder. Money no longer has value, instead people trade for goods and sueño tabs, a drug meant to help ease people into sleep every night, but one that is incredibly addictive. This is the one part of the world-building that I wanted to see more of. Nalah has a rule where none of her girls are allowed to take sueño tabs, so we rarely get a peek at what this pills truly does.
I love how dedicated Nalah is to her crew. She’s a natural leader, not because she is the toughest or the smartest, but because she knows her team. She understands who each member is, what their limits are, and how to deal with each of them. I wish we had gotten to know every member of Las Mal Criadas more. Nalah’s right-hand woman, Truck, is the most clearly conceived. She’s a hothead, who will always pull back her fist first when trying to take care of a problem. The young Nena, who is still learning the ropes, falters more than she succeeds. The other girls haven’t quite accepted her as a member as they are still processing the loss of their former crew member who died at the hands of another crew. Shi and Smiley, the other two members of the gang, did not have much page-time and aside from Nalah’s narration describing who they are, we really don’t get to know either.
Dealing in Dreams has one of the most unique dystopian worlds I’ve read and even though I wanted more character exploration, the inverse world is one I wouldn’t mind spending more time in.