"Insomnia," the debut novel from Utah author J.R. Johansson, is original and page-turning.
Parker Chipp is a "watcher." Each night, instead of sleeping and dreaming on his own, he enters the dream of the last person he's had contact with. He is exhausted. He finds out that if this continues as it has for the last four years, he will inevitably die.
Enter Mia. When hers are the last eyes he sees, her dreams are so tranquil that he is able to sleep within them. He becomes obsessed to the point of losing everything he has. After a few discoveries, he has to decide what will make things right for those he's hurt and try to solve a few mysteries that come up in the process.
While some of the secondary characters could have been developed better, Johansson does an excellent job of writing the four core characters in this psychological thriller. Chipp is a complex and likable character. Because of that, you will believe his thoughts, dilemmas and choices.
Finn and Addie are Chipp's true friends that live next door. They provide both humor and tension throughout the story.
Mia is the mystery. Parker wonders why her dreams are the way they are, who is "darkness" and how can he change what is happening to the two of them.
Throughout the novel, the situations vary between believable and unrealistic, considering the main characters are high school students with mostly reliable parental influences. But it doesn't distract from the story and the desire to solve the mystery will pull you through until the end.
"Insomnia" doesn't contain any foul language. However, there are some references to rape, and the violence is pretty intense in parts, which may be scary and inappropriate for younger readers.
Johansson did leave some gaps opened and questions unanswered, which will hopefully be answered in a sequel along with more answers about Chipp's condition and "darkness." Most of all, though, a sequel would be welcome because the night walker world of "Insomnia" is one to return to.
If you go ...
What: "Insomnia" launch party and J.R. Johansson book signing
When: Tuesday, June 18, 7 p.m.
Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City