Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: The Nightmare Affair

Title: The Nightmare Affair
Author: Mindee Arnett
Part of a series? Arkwell Academy, #1
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Length: 367 pages (hardcover)
Genre: YA contemporary fantasy
Source: NetGalley ARC

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.

First Impression:

When I first heard about this book, I had no idea that nightmares could actually mean actual creatures. But then I looked up "nightmares" on Wikipedia and encountered this lovely visual:

Well, that's disturbing.

Thankfully, Mindee Arnett's heroine, Dusty, is nothing like that little gremlin--though she does have to employ a similar awkward position during her "feedings" (a fact that made me LOL on the subway). But for all intents and purposes, it becomes clear from the get-go that Dusty is very much your average teenage girl.

Okay, not that kind of teenage girl.

SQUEE-worthy: This book was such a FUN read! Not only is Dusty a hilarious narrator, but Arnett has really done a top-notch job with the fantasy aspect of this. From the intricate classification of magical beings to the classes at Arkwell Academy, it was like returning to Hogwarts--albeit a crazier, more diverse version of Hogwarts. I also thought the mystery component was well executed; I hate books with "mysteries" that are completely predictable, so the fact that The Nightmare Affair kept me guessing until the very end is commendable. Speaking of the end, I'm going to try hard not to be spoiler-y, but I love that Arnett has taken an old legend that we're all familiar with and turned it on its head. I mean, with so many retellings out there, sometimes "twists" can seem unoriginal or overplayed. That's definitely not the case with Nightmare Affair, though. The twist was creative and original enough that I didn't see it coming--and that's always a good sign!

"Meh" Moments: For me, this was the kind of book that was good... but could've been GREAT. I love the world that Arnett has created, along with its corresponding magical system, and I really like Dusty as a narrator, but the biggest drawback for me was the lack of depth in the secondary characters. They just fall a little flat and feel one-dimensional to me. I understand the need to place more focus on the action--it certainly helps put things at a faster pace--but there's also something to be said about thoroughly fleshed-out characters that feel real, that are complex, that linger in a reader's consciousness long after you turn the last page. And while Dusty as a heroine does achieve that to some extent, I can't help but wonder how much more epic the story could've been if more was revealed about Selene, Katarina, or even Eli. For instance, the Harry Potter series wasn't just about the magic and the adventure; it was also about Harry, Ron, and Hermione and the colorful cast of characters that they encounter along the way.

For fans of: Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, magical boarding school stories, and fairy tale retellings.

Buy or Borrow? A tentative buy. While it's a good, fun read, it might be worth skimming the first few pages of it first, just to see if you like it.

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