Hi everyone, it’s Sabrina! Today I’m here to chat about a book I read recently – In My Dreams I Hold A Knife by Ashley Winstead. I believe there are no spoilers in this review, however there are some leading statements that might make it easier to predict events of the book – so if you are hoping to read it soon and want to go in with a clean slate, I would urge you not to read this post because it may taint the experience for you. Also having said that, I should let you know that this is not a particularly positive review, so if that is not to your taste I also urge you not to read this post! Please take this whole review as my personal opinion rather than fact – I’ve tried to make that clear in the writing, but I’m sure I missed some things. With that out of the way, let’s get into the review!
One college reunion.
One unsolved murder.
A college reunion turns dark and deadly in this chilling and propulsive suspense novel about six friends, one unsolved murder, and the dark secrets they’ve been hiding from each other—and themselves—for a decade.
Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has planned her triumphant return to southern, elite Duquette University, down to the envious whispers that are sure to follow in her wake. Everyone is going to see the girl she wants them to see—confident, beautiful, indifferent—not the girl she was when she left campus, back when Heather’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she’d been closest to since freshman year. Ten years ago, everything fell apart, including the dreams she worked for her whole life—and her relationship with the one person she wasn’t supposed to love.
But not everyone is ready to move on. Not everyone left Duquette ten years ago, and not everyone can let Heather’s murder go unsolved. Someone is determined to trap the real killer, to make the guilty pay. When the six friends are reunited, they will be forced to confront what happened that night—and the years’ worth of secrets each of them would do anything to keep hidden.
Told in racing dual timelines, with a dark campus setting and a darker look at friendship, love, obsession, and ambition, In My Dreams I Hold A Knife is an addictive, propulsive read you won’t be able to put down.”
EXPECTATIONS VS REALITY
If you read the above synopsis (source: Goodreads) and see the book cover, like I did, you may go into this book expecting an atmospheric yet thrilling “dark academia” style book. That’s not really what this story is, in my opinion. The tone leans more Big Little Lies than The Secret History – which is certainly not a bad thing, it’s just not what I was expecting from what I’d heard and seen of this book. It was also filled more with petty drama than dark twists and honestly didn’t have much to do with education. While the book was told in multiple timelines, they weren’t “racing” and I didn’t find the story “addictive” or “propulsive” – all promised by the synopsis. So right off the bat, I was starting on the wrong foot with this story. Honestly, it’s been a bit difficult to write this review, because though my biggest issue with this book was the character stereotypes, that truly exacerbated – and even caused – all my other issues with the story, especially the plot itself. So it’s tricky to talk about my concerns with the novel separately because they all feed into one another. Still, I’ll do my best and hopefully I won’t get too off track!
The story follows a core group of seven(ish) characters, all keeping one, if not more, big secrets from each other during their time at Duquette University. There is also a second major timeline which follows the characters through a college reunion – and, of course, they’re still keeping secrets from each other, though they are arguably not as big this time around (minus the secret of the murderer, lol). The reader learns the barest details about each of the characters throughout the story, and from those details you can easily predict what secrets they’re keeping from the rest of the group (particularly during the earlier timeline), primarily because the characters are, in my opinion, not very original and we’ve seen these types of characters with these types of secrets many times before – in all kinds of media. The clearest examples of this, in my opinion, are Frankie, the star football player, and Courtney, the mean-girl.
On top of the characters being stereotypical, and therefore quite forgettable, I also found most of them to be very unlikeable. The main character, Jessica, is the worst offender. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes an unlikeable character can be entertaining, but Jessica leaned too whiny and boring for me. I wish her character had either been taken a bit further with her unlike-ability or had just been likeable! You can be ambitious and still be likeable. There were definitely times where I felt sympathy for her despite all this, but even these moments were tainted by the predictable nature of the plot. There is one particular scenario I’m thinking of that plays out exactly as you would expect it to, and it would be difficult not to feel awful for Jessica as it unfolds, but I do feel some of the impact was lost because of its execution and tone.
The cyclical nature of the book’s structure (in addition to the characters) fuelled its predictability. Though the reader mostly sees things through the eyes Jessica, the novel rotates through the other characters’ perspectives from their time in university, focusing on one at a time. Because of this, you know by the end who the true murderer was because everyone else has been cleared through their point of view chapter from the night of the murder. This also led to the book feeling less twisty and more like a series of non-shocking reveals. Having said that – and this leads me onto another one of my annoyances with this book – you are never quite sure if Jessica is “innocent” because she conveniently has missing memories from the night of the murder. There were frequent references to these forgotten events, memories which were sure to return to Jessica at the most opportune moments. I couldn’t tell you why these memories came back ten years later, and I don’t think anyone else could either.
There were some elements to the story that I did appreciate. First, the writing was truly entertaining. It was definitely melodramatic with lots of cliffhanger chapter endings and bold one liners, but it worked for the story and it kept me reading. I also enjoyed the structure of the novel. Though there were two clear timelines – “during college” and “college reunion” – the “during college” timeline jumped all over the place which kept me on my toes and was something unusual. Finally, I also liked that all the characters’ motivations were explained without being excused and sometimes those reasons were fairly interesting.
I’m going to end this review with some of my other issues with the book – a few about my personal taste and a few that I feel are more serious:
⚡️ There is so, so much cheating mixed up in this plot
⚡️ Seriously, about 95% of the characters are unfaithful at some point
⚡️ And, if I recall correctly, the bisexual character was the first to be revealed as cheating so yet again feeding into a stereotype (a harmful one too, even though the inclusion of multiple cheating characters makes me feel a little less annoyed about it)
⚡️ The book cover does not match the tone of the book
⚡️ There is a minor character who is a bad guy and has a scar across his face making him the only disfigured character in the book so once more we have a harmful stereotype
⚡️ The main character even remarks that she can see this character is evil just by looking at him
⚡️ The title has little/no relevancy to the book whatsoever
So there you have it! My thoughts on the adult mystery In My Dreams I Hold A Knife. I may not have loved the book, but it still made for an entertaining read and has helped me narrow down my reading tastes somewhat too. I gave it two out of five stars.
What do you think?
Have you read In My Dreams I Hold a Knife? What’s your favourite thriller novel? What about your favourite unlikeable character? Let me know!