Title: Dealing in Dreams
Author: Lilliam Rivera
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Review Copy: eARC received from publisher
Availability: On sale 5 March 2019
Summary: 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?
Review: Lilliam Rivera’s Dealing in Dreams is an interesting experiment in the post-apocalyptic and dystopian genres that is anchored by its Latinx-inspired world. The world is more or less a wasteland after a human-made environmental disaster known as the Big Shake—and in Mega City, men have been given the blame for destroying the world. But the women who came together to rebuild in the aftermath of the Big Shake didn’t build a more inclusive world, they simply reversed the power structure. Mega City used the patriarchy as a blueprint instead of a warning, and Dealing in Dreams is not shy at pointing out how eagerly people will uphold corrupt, violent, nationalist power structures provided it will give them an advantage. Nalah and her crew, Las Mal Criadas, embody the willingness to kick down on your way to the top.
While I found Mega City interesting on a conceptual level, I cared very little for anyone who wasn’t Nalah. While I understood Nalah and Truck’s devotion to each other, I don’t feel like the rest of the characters and relationships in Las Mal Criadas were fleshed out enough. Part of that is due to their limited screen time (one member drops off the page for most of the middle act, others disappear and/or refuse to talk to Nalah for significant chunks), and part of that is that Nalah is their Chief Rocka, who issues orders and expects to be obeyed without any backtalk or much space for friendship building. Otherwise, most characters pop in and out with little time to go beyond a splashy introduction.
The journey into Cemi Territory to find the Ashé Ryders was filled with interesting characters (and character revelations) and plenty of peril. I wish that Nalah and her crew had been able to stay longer outside, though, because I feel like extended exposure to an alternative society to Mega City would have made me appreciate the many emotional and motivational changes in the final act more than I did. Personally, I would have liked to see much more of the Ashé Ryders and how they built a society and survived outside Mega City if only so we could get a non-Déesee take on the history of the world. Maybe between the two, we could have gotten a better idea of what the truth of it might be.
Recommendation: Borrow it someday. Dealing in Dreams is filled with intriguing ideas, but needed more fleshing out with its supporting cast. If you’re interested in an examination of toxic societal structures and a discussion of how much you’re willing to hurt others in order to achieve your dreams, add this book to your TBR pile.
Interview with Lilliam Rivera at Minorities in Publishing
Excerpt of Dealing in Dreams at Teen Vogue