By Mindee Arnett
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Netgalley/Itching for Books Blog Tours
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’m very sad that C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series, which has come to be one of my favorites, is ending this year; while this was the last place I thought I’d find it, Arnett’s The Nightmare Affair has a little bit of the same feeling to it. I love stories that have a giant mishmash of paranormal beings all in school together with a mystery to solve and even though there were a few minor hitches, I enjoyed this one.
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Arkwell Academy is home to Sirens, Demons, Fairies, Hags, Mermaids and more, including Dusty, who’s one of only three Nightmares. As a half-breed daughter of a Nightmare and a human male, she has limited magic but still has The Will of a Nightmare to feed off of the dreams of others. So a few times a week, she climbs into someone’s room, hops onto their bed and drops into their dreams to siphon off a little magic essence. This particular night, she sneaks into the bedroom of Eli, who may be the hottest guy at the high school she used to go to. Forced – forced, she swears – to climb on top of him to get into his dreams, she’s unpleasantly surprised to find he’s dreaming of a murder that hasn’t happened yet, on the Arkwell campus. Because of a unique link they have, Eli is brought to the Academy and he’ll work with Dusty in his dreams to see if they can find the killer.
The first half of the book meandered around, spending a lot of time on the school basics and everyone just sort of poking at each other. The second half picked up the pace with revelations and potential villains flying left and right. I would have preferred something in the middle. I’d already guessed who the bad guys were (for the most part) and in the wild rush to the end of the story, it felt like the fun detective work was lost. I didn’t think the whole reason/explanation for everything was fresh; it’s been done so many times in so many ways, I would have loved to see Arnett come up with something else that involved magic. I still liked the way the story ended, with practically complete closure of this story and the newly formed circle of friends planning their future.
I thought Dusty was a fun, easy to love character. She had a delightfully smart mouth and occasionally, a bad attitude that made me laugh. As one of the few half-breeds at Arkwell herself, she was pretty much the only one who was kind to the others and didn’t hold their non-magical status against them. I loved her relationship with her roommate Selene, how uncomplicated it was and that they simply had each other’s back because they liked each other with no prejudice from either about what kind of paranormal being they were. Selene was another great character and I hope there’s a lot more of her to see in the next books. She has great sidekick material written all over her – she’s snarky, tough, loyal and has great hair.
I was a little disappointed with the selection of guys Arnett offered up in all of their general stereotypical glory. Eli, who’s going to be the series dude, is the hot guy who’s really cool with hanging out with the nerds once he figures out the popular kids are asses. He was anti-Dusty in the beginning because he thought she was weird but she grew on him when she did brave stuff. Then we have Paul, the cute and geeky library dude, who’s also a half-breed like Dusty. He’s sweet and likes her right away. Obviously, he’s got issues. Then there’s Lance the Boil. Okay, just Lance. He’s a popular dude-jerk who’s always playing mean practical jokes on Dusty, but I think he’s a nice guy underneath? I think I’m supposed to be left guessing. Not a wide array of choice cuts to choose from, but obviously Eli is the best of the bunch, fortunately for Dusty, since she’s stuck with him for the series as part of her dream seer team.
This was a nice surprise for me and what I hope is the beginning of a good little YA paranormal mystery series. Now that the main characters have settled in place and Arnett has done the hard stuff of creating their world, I hope future books can focus more on detective work and maybe a little budding romance. With such a terrific debut, I expect wonderful things from Arnett.
My Rating: A-