Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.
Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.
Then Eli’s dream comes true.
Now Dusty has to follow the clues – both within Eli’s dreams and out of them – to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target
You can read an excerpt here.
Just when I thought I’d read every possible permutation of paranormal-boarding-school story, this book came along and surprised me – in a very good way.
Turns out, The Nightmare Affair not only strays off-the-beaten paranormal path, it’s also a heck of a lot of fun. For starters, the powers are fantastic: not only did I love everything about Dusty’s Nightmare powers, from the slightly awkward nature of her technique to the social stigma that comes along with it, but imagine my surprise when I ended up thoroughly enjoying everyone else’s powers as well. Arnett brings together a fun, eclectic mix of mythology, spices it up with original, quirky flare, and throws it all into a simmering cauldron of teen resentment, with highly entertaining results. Arkwell Academy has it all – cliques, hazing, and nerdy teachers included – only in this world powers are yet another way to define social status, and Dusty, as a Nightmare, is definitely NOT one of the cool kids. So of course her best friend is a slightly militant Siren who refuses to be objectified, and Dusty’s dream partner turns out to be a normal human guy who still somehow manages to be more popular than she is. And just like with any high school, everything from lunch time to gym class is an obstacle course of teen drama – which makes for a lot of fun.
As for Dusty herself – she’s hilarious. Dusty is the type of girl who just blurts out whatever she’s thinking, no filter included, and it results in heaps of snark and no small amount of her mouth running away and dragging her straight into trouble. And I utterly loved that about her – Dusty’s honest, shoot-from-the-hip personality is just FUN – but I also really loved how Dusty didn’t always have the perfect quip, how she was caught flat-footed and sometimes said things she would regret later, just to score a hit, and how she was mistaken more than once. It all made her feel very, very real. So yes, Dusty is entirely awesome.
But while I loved that Dusty wasn’t an infallible super-girl, I did find myself wishing at times that she was a bit better at this sleuthing business, because for a fair amount of the story she’s ridiculously blind to the hugely obvious – and as a reader, when you get ahead of the story like that, you just kind of end up yelling silently at the character to catch up. But Dusty persists in her cluelessness, and so keeps reeling from one random suspect to the next, and all in all it makes the mystery lurch in rather ungainly fashion. But interestingly enough, when the final reveal did come, it turned out that while I was ahead of a healthy portion of the story, there was still a good chunk that I definitely did not anticipate, and so I was pleasantly surprised. And yet, there was also a fair bit of evil-doer monologuing while Dusty stood around stupefied at learning everything we already knew. So on the mystery side, while there is plenty of fun run and jump, with creepy corridors and gloomy graveyards galore, all in all this book definitely plays out more Scooby Doo than Veronica Mars. But still, with characters like these, I was more than happy to stick around until the end.
So while this book isn’t perfect, there still is just no way to resist its charms – I literally can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a paranormal boarding school story this much (it’s been AGES). So yes, I will most definitely be back for the next Dusty adventure – I just rather hope she watches some CSI between this book and the next.
Byrt Grade: A-/B+
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
For the lore and originality, this book gets all its points….Fun and refreshing with its creepy take on well known paranormal beings, The Nightmare Affair is an entertaining read, even though it didn’t enrapture me as much as I was hoping…
The Big Reveal: Half of it was something I entirely didn’t anticipate, and it was thrilling. The other half was something that was hinted at so many times I was waiting from about a quarter in for Dusty to finally realize what seemed so obvious.