The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy #1) by Mindee Arnett

The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy, #1)The Nightmare Affair
by Mindee Arnett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Published March 5th 2013 by Tor Teen
ISBN 0765333333

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.

The blurb for this book really did it for me. Personifying nightmares? Awkward chest sitting? A magical academy? Sign me up!

No, really, sign me up—I never got a Hogwarts letter.

After reading the blurb and receiving the ARC from Tor Teen via NetGalley, I wish I had better news to report. I did like a lot of things about the book—I just wish I had liked them more.

Dusty is an outcast at Arkwell Academy, thus you get some unpopular-girl vs. The Cool Kids dynamics, which I didn't find 100% convincing, mostly because I've never witnessed such blatant bullying before in school. The Draco-Malfoy-loudly-mocking-Harry-at-mealtimes thing never seemed plausible to me, because I've never witnessed a bully so secure at the top of the food chain that someone wouldn't call them out, eventually. I'm no authority on bullies, though, despite my extensive public school resume (10 different occasions of being the new kid). Maybe it's a private school thing?

Speaking of schools, Arkwell Academy is such a great draw toward this book. The idea of a Nightmare personified is way cool, and when you add in her magical secret high school that teaches witches, fairies, sirens, demons, and, yes, Nightmares, to do magic had me really excited. I found myself feeling a little deprived mid-book—I wish Arnett had gone into a bit more detail about the different students and their magic, maybe a couple more characters, and more depth to the cast we got to meet. The characters all seem to be smart and intrepid, but disproportionally emotionally immature. I think getting to see more of them, dialogue and action, in future books could definitely even this out.

In addition, the political structure of the magical world is referenced several times, and the reader isn't ever given a first hand perspective into how it operates and how Dusty understands it. Give me more! Politics send a lot of people to sleep, but throw in some fantasy characters and history and they can be made really compelling.

All-in-all, The Nightmare Affair is a fast read with enough fresh spin on a collection of tropes to make it palatable. I could criticize it some more, but I think it's a book a younger teen (12-14) might really enjoy. A fresh pair of eyes could really get stuck on elements that seem tired and over-done to a reader like me. And it's got that little bit of boarding school story appeal that never seems to get old.

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