I don’t believe Dare to Imagine by Nilza Elita was written by a native speaker of English. It is not because Johnathan’s father has the name of Niraj or that there are frequent references to India. It is because that for lengthy passages there is a lack of rhythm to sentences. Long tracts of text use sentences of uniform length. It is like a speaker using a “robot” voice. Aside from that, there are is phrasing that comes across strange to readers who have English as a native language. The unusual phrasing causes readers to pause as if stumbling over small rocks on a path. This does not mean a novel is bad; it is just a feature worth remarking on.
The novel begins in the present time with a mystery which becomes more mysterious and ends up almost obvious in a very short period. Johnathan wakes up in a hospital not knowing where he is. While trying to orient himself, Barry enters the room and introduces himself as a psychiatric technician assigned to help Johnathan. Minor Alert One: Psychiatric technicians do not usually introduce themselves as such. Many psychiatric patients are in a state of denial and do not want to admit they need mental health assistance. Johnathan will next meet Dr. Sanjay Rao who wants to help Johnathan restore full memory. Something criminal has happened and Dr. Rao wants to find out as much as he can before Detective Superintendent Brown begins to question Johnathan. While gathering background information from Johnathan, Rao learns that Johnathan has few friends; there is only Peter, Nick, and Misty. Rao reveals to Johnathan that he has tried to kill himself, that he is suffering from amnesia, and that Rao is there to help Johnathan reconstruct memories and find motivation for Johnathan’s actions.
Following Rao’s interview with Johnathan, there was his interview with Detective Brown. Rao’s intent is to restore Johnathan’s memories without interference from the detective. Detective Brown wants to interview Johnathan immediately, Rao resists and tells Brown that Johnathan might be suffering from schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder. Rao even comes up with a new name; schizoaffective disorder. The novel then is presented through backstory segments with titles such as Six Months Ago, Five Months Ago and so on until we return to the segment Present Day.
Segment Six Months Ago has two chapters, numbers four and five. By the end of chapter four, at 12% of the novel, I have the story figured out. I have nothing left to do but be critical of language as the story moves forward. Alternatively, I could abandon the book. However, I wanted to move forward to validate my predictions as to what would happen. I paid more attention to mechanics and presentation than plot development.
Johnathan had a bad relationship with his father Niraj, a man frequently absent from home due to his job as a pilot. Johnathan liked his father’s absences and wished they would be more frequent and longer. Niraj criticized his wife, Janice, constantly. The criticism spilled over to Johnathan. There were instances of physical abuse by Niraj towards Janice that were hidden deep in the memories of Jonathan during his early years. Johnathan had a good relationship with his mother even though he felt there were secrets about him that Janice would not talk about. As is predictable with many domestic abuse cases, there is an ever-increasing level of physical abuse until a tipping point is reached and someone goes too far. This is a story of how characters reacted when the tipping point was reached.
This is a very linear story. A happened, then B, then C … There is a lot of story-telling, not story showing. I found no surprises and was astonished that I arrived at the end of the novel having encountered nothing unexpected. That does not make it a bad novel, but it does make it an OK novel, by Amazon standards, three stars. Because I mentioned phrasing that caused me to stumble in my reading, what follows are a few examples.
‘Then why are you behaving like a rabbit caught in the headlights?’ (Kindle locations 474-475).
This might just be me as a US-based reader. We are familiar with deer in the headlights.
“I don’t have time for your crap!’ Jonathan said in a strop.” (Kindle location 558)
I don’t know what strop is. Neither does my Kindle dictionary.
… “As if by magic it (door) opened! Effortlessly, ‘Oh my god, how jammy’ he thought.” (Kindle locations 627-628)
I don’t know what jammy is. Red lines under the word indicate Grammarly doesn’t either.
“Jonathan, ‘JR, you’re in the driving seat.” (Kindle location 748)
For US English readers, this would be driver’s seat.
‘Fine, fine, keep your hair on.’ ‘Where are Peter and Nick anyway?’ (Kindle locations 1281-1282).
American English critics would respond with “keep your shirt on.”
“give you a wide birth” (Kindle location 3713).
There might be a situation where the word would be used this way. This isn’t it. Try berth.
Because of the step-by-step linear presentation of a story without surprises, I will not read more by this author. This novel is available as a free read on Kindle Unlimited.