Dreaming of Antigone
Sometimes you read a book and immediately feel the need to go and tell everyone about it, whether it’s just that good or just that bad. Other times, you finish a story and need to digest it for a while, like a fine meal. Dreaming of Antigone definitely needed time to digest – while the story is interesting, and there’s a lot going on, there’s a quietness to it that practically demands reflection. In the end, this young adult novel is a sweet romance dealing with some very dark and heavy issues.
First of all, our heroine Andria has epilepsy. After her first seizure at only 3 hours old, Andria has been sheltered and smothered by her well-meaning mother, who is understandably terrified that one of her newborn twins has such a serious health issue. Her father, who already had issues with mental health and depression, wasn’t able to take the stress, and ended up committing suicide before the girls were two. And now, as a teenager, Andria’s twin, Iris, has overdosed on heroin six months before the start of the novel.
Needless to say, there’s already a lot going on.
On top of all this, Andria is trying to grieve for her sister, and many of her friends are trying to push her past the whole process. They have dealt with their own grieving (the twins shared many friends), and figure it’s time for Andria to move on as well. But losing your friend isn’t the same as losing your sister, especially close twins. On top of that, Iris’ ex, Alex, has just come back from rehab, and Andria blames him for her sister’s death – after all, they did drugs together, including the night of the overdose. But they are forced to work together for extra credit by the school librarian, helping go through boxes of donations, and Andria has to deal with her anger towards Alex, and deal with the same towards Iris. If all this wasn’t overwhelming enough, there are allegations of child abuse going on, and though I don’t want to give too much away, it ends up hitting close to home for Andria.
What I really enjoyed about this story is how introspective everything is – we live inside Andria’s head for the story, and it’s basically a picture-perfect example of a character driven story. She’s a bit of a grunge/goth girl, into poetry, into astronomy, and numb in many ways from her sister’s death. Her dreams are full of Iris, of being blamed for Iris’ death, of Iris needing help. It’s pretty horrible, but incredibly realistic.
Andria’s English class is reading Antigone, who has become Andria’s personal “goddess of suicides and dysfunctional families.” As the daughter of Oedipus (do you remember him? Killed his father and married his mother?), Antigone already had it rough, but then stands up to her brothers to try and stop what is basically a civil war. After everything that’s happened, Andria can’t help but draw parallels between Antigone and Iris, and between Antigone’s sister, Ismene, and herself. It’s an interesting comparison, and ties in with the poetry really well in the story.
The only thing I really had any issues with was Andria’s romance with Alex. I’m not particularly comfortable with the idea of her dating her dead twin’s boyfriend. But I do like how the author worked it all out, and it really made sense by the end. And I’m glad. The two of them actually work really well as a couple, with Alex so understanding of Andria’s fears and limitations, and Andria’s acceptance of Alex of who he is now, rather than who he was. And who can resist poetry-flirting? I mean, really?
While I definitely enjoyed Dreaming of Antigone, I really think it’s not for everyone. This is a dark story. The characters within deal with drug addiction, epilepsy, suicide, and molestation, just to name a few. But I think it’s a good story, and an interesting one. It feels true-to-life in a way I haven’t read in awhile. With all the terrible things that happen in the world, it was lovely to read a book that was really about rising from the ashes.