Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review: THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR by Mindee Arnett

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.
I have to admit, I wasn't a fan of the cover for this book, which meant I wasn't sure how I would feel about the story. Yes, I judge books by their covers. So do you, though you might not admit it. Now that I've read the book, I'm still not totally sold on the cover (the white phoenix bugs me), but I will say that the story inside far surpasses its outer shell.

Part of what sold me on this book is the concept. I enjoy boarding school settings (when done correctly) and the whole kids-with-magical-powers trope (when done correctly), so I was giddy when I discovered that The Nightmare Affair does both... correctly!

Arkwell is a secret boarding school for magicky kids, everything from faeries to mermaids to sirens (totally different things) to hags to demons to Nightmares. Well, a Nightmare. Dusty is the only one of her kind at school. As a Nightmare, she must feed off of the dreams of humans to survive. Her mom attended the school as well and made quite a name for Nightmare-kind in a very bad way. Now everyone expects Dusty to live down to her mother's bad reputation, which she does spectacularly when her dream-feed off the hunky Eli Booker goes bad.

Instead of remaining unseen while feeding on his dream, Dusty accidentally catches Eli's attention within the dream world - a major no-no - but not before seeing a very realistic dream about a murder of the grounds of her own school! When Dusty returns to her school to be punished, she finds out that the murder actually occurred that very night, and that she and Eli are a very rare pair of linked beings known as dream-seers, those who are able to see the future through dreams. Now the two of them must team up to catch the killer before bad things go down.

Boarding school + magicky people + MURDER MYSTERY?! Yessssssssssssssssss. Really, the setting of Arkwell Academy stole the show for me. I loved loved loved the concept. I loved the classes and the crazy teachers who are all different kinds of magickind, I loved the different strands of mythology, I loved all of it!

Oh, and about those characters. I thought Dusty was a hoot. She tries so hard to play by the book, but her mouth shoots off at the worst moments. It's hard to be good when everyone expects you to be bad. Eli, though a bit vague, is also interesting in his own way. He's understandably ticked for Dusty getting him yanked from his normal life and involved in magickind, but he's a good guy deep down. Also, in his investigating dreams he copies his dad's signature look and wears an orange-and-blue bow tie. Orange and blue is my favorite color combo, and nothing beats a good bow tie.

However, for all my glee, I do have a couple bones to pick. First, I wish several points of the mythology had been clarified. For instance, why are mermaids and sirens completely different creatures? Are Nightmares only female, and do they ONLY sit on male dreamers? Why are they even called Nightmares when they feed on all dreams, not just nightmares? Why were other half-breeds allowed into Arkwell without powers while Dusty wasn't brought in until after she displayed certain tendencies?

Also, I wish we knew more about Eli's and Dusty's lives before Arkwell. Both were yanked out of school suddenly and placed into Arkwell, but no one seems to notice they're gone. Eli was described as popular. Do none of his friends notice he's missing? And how does something as vast as Arkwell exist on public grounds without anyone poking around?

While the book was good, it felt like a pilot episode. Like Ms. Arnett was using her book to get some of her ducks in a row but was purposely holding back. I reached the end and was stunned when my e-reader wouldn't go on. That was it? Granted, it did its job. I'll definitely be checking out the next book. I just wish there had been more.

One last note, one that's new for me. Normally I don't notice points of view, but I found myself thinking through much of the story how interesting it would have been to follow the plot through Eli's eyes instead of Dusty's. While that line wouldn't work for several reasons, I do wish Ms. Arnett had chosen to give Eli a little more agency. Hey, maybe the next book could be dual perspective.

In conclusion, while The Nightmare Affair was lacking in a few areas, it was a rollicking good ride full of magic, mythology, and fun. I can't wait to see what the gang gets up to next.

Points Added For: A fantastic concept, a fun and snarky protagonist, magical creatures, orange and blue bow ties.

Points Subtracted For: A totally predictable bad guy (one of them, anyways), a stereotypical mean girl, lack of clarification on certain aspects of the presented mythology.

Good For Fans Of: Boarding schools, MAGICAL boarding schools, paranormal creatures.

Notes For Parents: Some kissing, mention of nudity within a dream, language.

Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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