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.
(Summary from GoodReads)
The Nightmare Affair sounded like a fantastically creepy YA paranormal/ghost story, which is why I decided to read it. Given that this novel is set at a creepy boarding school, it wasn’t totally devoid of these elements, but I found it disappointing overall. Arnett’s debut felt excessively similar to the first Harry Potter book in plot with poorly written characters and prose I didn’t care for.
I feel like a mean person for finding so much to dislike in this book, but it did nothing for me, and since worldbuilding is the groundwork of a lot of paranormal stories, I’ll start there. I had a hard time buying the premise of this novel, partially because the way this character steals nightmares is so awkward. While I understand that this was the author’s point, it felt infeasible. It also didn't help that one piece of the world felt like it was stolen right from Harry Potter.
Dusty is a poorly written character, and that made it hard for me to like or connect with her. Not only was she whiny and impulsive, it felt like she had immediate, intense emotional reactions to everything. I know this is how some people behave, the overall cast of the book led me to believe that Arnett built Dusty’s character based on her own beliefs on how teenagers behave. I say this because the way a lot of characters acted felt overdramatic and like stereotypes.
Sadly, the prose in this novel just felt flat overall, and the immature characters didn’t help. Furthermore, the entire time I read this book it was predictable and felt overly reminiscent of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for a little nostalgia once in a while, but there is such a thing as too many similarities.
Clearly, The Nightmare Affair was not the book for me. You’ll sometimes hear about authors who write up to ten books before finally getting one published, and there’s a reason for that: it just takes practice to get good at writing. It felt like Arnett needed more practice before publishing a book. I may give her books a chance in the future, but I don’t intend to finish reading this series.
Disclosure: I received a digital galley of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.