Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
Series: #1 in the Arkwell Academy series
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pages: 336
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads: 

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


Thanksgiving turkey

We've already establish how much I like food, so I'm going to go with a food analogy on this one.

When it comes to Thanksgiving, I'm pretty much in food heaven. I'm a sides and dessert kind of girl, so the bulk of my plate space is taken up with things like stuffing (all varieties), mashed potatoes, that awesome sweet potato pie with the marshmallows on top, corn pudding, dinner rolls, string bean casserole, candied apples, roasted potatoes, and so on.

And then, oh the desserts! You see where this is going?

What I don't pay much attention to is the actual turkey. It's not that I don't like turkey, because I definitely do and I always make sure to have a little bit of room on my plate for some, but it just doesn't have the same draw as all those sides and desserts.

It's just, it's plain. It doesn't even look particularly interesting. I mean, when you stick a casserole of super sweet bright orange mashed potatoes topped with gooey marshmallows on the table next to plain old sliced meat, the turkey doesn't really hold up to the comparison. Sides are embellished, sides have surprises, sides have depth and texture and all sorts of things like that. Turkey is plain and predictable. 

Which isn't all bad. Like, come, say, the next day, when the fact that the turkey is leftover and predictable and unadorned suddenly makes it a comfort food.

How The Nightmare Affair is a Thanksgiving turkey

At first I thought the idea of nightmares as paranormal creatures would be so unique and exciting and side-dishably appealing, but I was wrong. Nightmares are interesting, but the development wasn't really there enough to make them fascinating. Sure they were different, in concept, but in execution they don't really hold their own in my mind or have any kind of lasting power.

Neither does the plot. After the first few chapters, it' pretty easy to sketch out a rough outline of everything that is going to happen next. This was less a result of the plot, though, and more a result of the cookie-cutter characters.

I knew exactly what I was getting with The Nightmare Affair because I've read about all these characters before in tons of other books. I know a certain type of character can't possibly be the villain because they're never actually the villain. I know who the villain is because that character is always the villain. I know the love interest and how that will play out, the friendships, the relationships with the teachers, and on and on.

But, like a Thanksgiving turkey, The Nightmare Affair was plain and predictable and definitely lost the majority of my plate space because of it, but I also found it next-day-leftover comforting for those very same reasons.

Old reliable

The Nightmare Affair might not be a unique book, but it does take after a type of book I very much enjoy.

Main character Dusty is lunch table fun (if not sleepover party level), her romantic interest is crushable (if not knee-wobbly swoony), her friend is fist-bumping cool (if not unique, at all), and the villain is easy to dislike in a good way (if not terribly interesting).

This is the kind of book I'd read when I'm looking for something I know I'll enjoy. It's not super fast-paced, but it isn't slow either. The mystery is just engaging enough to keep me reading, though I know I won't get swept up into the world and lose myself for days. It doesn't have that kind of hold on me (like, say, pecan pie). It's more like the kind of book I can float through easily, enjoying myself in that non-taxing, surface way that leaves me satisfied but not wowed.

Basically, it's a solid "good." 

Ack, grizzle

Have you ever eaten turkey that wasn't carved 100% perfectly? So, you're sitting there, happily eating when all of a sudden, crunch, squish, ugh, you bite down on a bit of grizzle. Gross.

That's kind of how I felt with a plot point. Without giving anything away, there's a plot point that integrates a popular staple in mythology and I thought it had no place in this book. It stuck out, didn't work, and was a totally unnecessary addition.

Bottom line

I would read more of Dusty's adventures for sure, especially if they focus more on the paranormal solving-mysteries-through-dream-walking plots instead of the overarching Big Bad (which ties in with the grizzle plot point).

The ending wraps up well enough in that there isn't a big cliffhanger, but the Big Bad is on the loose. It might feel more cliffhangery if I cared more about that, but I don't so I'm perfectly content waiting for book two.

I won't rush out and buy book two, but I will read it eventually. I'll probably wait for a time I'm looking for a comfy read that isn't too mentally or emotionally taxing. Also, I'll get it from the library.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The Nightmare Affair that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.


  1. I believe the saying is: damned by faint praise. I hear what you're saying about comfort and reliability--especially knowing that the MC won't be TSTL--but my heart aches for such a lack of originality. And to hear that the best friend isn't at all unique? Next to the romance, that's my favorite fictional relationship!

    1. PERFECT saying. But, don't totally damn it because it was nice. Just don't expect too much. The best friend is not unique and their friendship is warm and fuzzy (because they've totally got each other's backs) but it's very been-there-done-that-bought-the-friendship-bracelet.

    2. So you're saying it's no Beaches/Code Name Verity?

    3. nnnnnnnnnnnoooooooo. Not even close.

  2. The lack of originality is the most common complaint about this book that I've read so far. Most days, it would annoy the heck out of me but it's usually this type of book that help me pull out of book slumps. So yeah, I'll read it but won't rush to it. I like your Thanksgiving dinner analogy and I think it fits perfectly.

    1. Yup, you're exactly right in thinking this would be a good book to pull you out of a reading slump. I like reading books I've already read and loved when I'm in a reading slump, but sometimes I want something I haven't already read but that I know I can count on being good. Enter Nightmare Affair. :) Glad you like the analogy!

  3. Haha I love the turkey analogy! The Nightmare Affair sounds like a good read; I may pick it up if I'm in the mood for something light.

    1. :) Glad you like the turkey analogy! Definitely a good, light read. Hope you like it!

  4. Sounds basically okay but nothing really spectacular, :) I like the idea of the book but it seems kind of watered down from other similar ideas and books.

    I think I'm gonna sit this one out.

  5. Trying to figure out what plot point you're referencing and totally blanking! I guess since it's been about a month since I've read this, I've forgotten most of it. I do want to check out the second book but it will probably be from the library.

    1. Hm, trying to give a non-spoilery hint...the villain?

  6. Yay, I'm glad you reviewed this one. You are ahead of me. I am working on my review. I rated it a little higher than you, I think I'm giving it a 4 or 4.5 I'm not sure, still waffling. I do agree on the points you make. I felt like the Nightmare concept was really exciting and that alone probably was why I think I liked the book as much as I did. Plus I felt it was a nice light read with a easy and fun to read voice.

  7. Love that you used a food metaphor here, Small! (Although since I'm vegetarian, I can't really relate to the whole turkey thing, LOL. Am totally with you on the desserts, though!) I know what you mean about books that are completely predictable and yet still mildly entertaining. Sounds like this is one that doesn't stretch the bounds of anything, but manages to hold the reader's interest well enough for a few hours. I might pick it up from the library at some point, but it doesn't really sound buy-worthy.

  8. I think your review is pretty much all I had hoped for from this book. Something kept telling me it was going to good, just not special. Maybe I'll look for it at the library for a rainy day.

  9. Ooh. I liked the synopsis when I read it, so a bit disappointed to find that it the "same-old" type of book. Might read it just for a quick read.

    Great review!

  10. Small, I think your analogy to turkey about this one was perfect. It's exactly how I felt. Lol, now you've made me hungry with your talk about sides and desserts.

  11. Heh, you and your analogies. Well, I'm kind of bummed by this because I got pretty excited when I heard this one had both a boarding school setting and a unique paranormal being. I mean, how cool and original is the idea of the Nightmare?? So to hear you say that much of the plot and characters was in fact not all that unique at all is pretty disappointing. Though I totally get the idea of an old, reliable comfort read, so there's that!

  12. What would the theme of this book be?

  13. What would the theme of this book be?


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