I am a true-blue sucker for boarding school stories, which is perhaps the very reason why I picked up The Nightmare Affair. That, and the cover, which reminded me so much of Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. Before cracking this book open, I was actually expecting some sort of dark, gothic, paranormal mystery, but what I got instead was a fun and entertaining read.
Sure, it isn’t high literature or anything and the plot was a little predictable, but I honestly could not put it down while I was reading it. Whatever magic Mindy Arnett put on the pages of this book, it sure worked on me. But that doesn’t mean I failed to notice the many deficiencies of the story. Although I liked The Nightmare Affair a lot, I must admit that the plot felt like a Jenga tower that’s very close to toppling down on itself. There were parts in the book where the author would pepper us with facts about magickind history and the mechanics of this or that, but crammed in a chapter and in succeeding paragraphs, they ended up perplexing the heck out of me. There were also some very confusing concepts, which I understood in the end, but the point is, the telling wasn’t flawless, and understanding didn’t come naturally as I was reading it (or maybe it was just my brain, tired from lack of sleep).
Dusty was very likable as a main character. She’s plucky and witty and capable, though a little bit slow on the uptake. Eli was likable as well, but I can’t help noticing the lack of a back story, which could have served as a foundation for his character development. This is also true with secondary characters such as Paul, Selene, and Moira – Dusty’s mom, who I kinda liked a lot. Sad to say, her relationship with Dusty was reduced to an inconsequential part of the plot. Characters-wise, the book felt brimming with them, so much that some managed to spill on the side. There were just TOO MANY types of magickind all at once, and this turned out to be a disadvantage, mainly because the author failed to make distinctions as sharp as they should have been.
In terms of the romance, I’m actually surprised to find myself liking it. There was a bit of a love triangle, which I know is a common premise in YA, but I have to argue that the Paul-Dusty-Eli triangle is a bit more reasonable than others. First, because none of the guys acted particularly douchenuggetty. Second, because Dusty’s feelings were valid – an attraction for the good-looking guy she had to sit on during their dream-feeding sessions, and the magnetic pull of someone who makes it clear that he wants to be with her. Third, even during the end of our story, Dusty was still smart about her feelings. There wasn’t an instant jump from one guy to the next, which I greatly appreciated. Plus, there were no illicit kisses shared and other stupid love-triangle related stuff.
But let’s go back to the plot. As I have mentioned earlier, it was a bit predictable. It didn’t take that much brain power to know who the nefarious people were and I saw the ending coming long before it’s opening scene. It also has uncanny similarities with other novels such as Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins and even Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, especially during the second half of the novel. I should also point out that the events leading to the climax fell short of riveting and ended up quite lax, odd because this is the part where everything should be coming together for the ultimate build-up.
Still, this book has a significant entertainment value, otherwise it wouldn’t get a 3 out of 5. I was vastly entertained by it and for the most part, I couldn’t put it down. I guess it’s because I’ve been reading a ton of serious stuff lately and this kind of book was just what I needed to lighten up a little. Low-ish ratings aside, I would still recommend The Nightmare Affair for those who are looking for something fun to read just to pass the time. I don’t know if I’m actually looking forward to the next installment, but I’m not pushing the idea of reading it away either. All in all, a very fun book. Not the best of its kind, but definitely far from the worst as well.