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 love this cover. Seriously, it’s at least a quarter of the reason I requested the novel. And I liked this one! I’m having a little bit of book burnout right now, and this is only maybe the second or third book I’ve actually enjoyed reading so far this year. This is such a new concept, the idea of Dusty being the personification of a Nightmare, that I couldn’t resist. And yes, there is a school for magical kids, but there is a huge range of magic–fairies, wizards and witches, sirens, werewolves, and a lot more. A lot of people on GoodReads implied this was a ripoff of Harry Potter, but I disagree. JK Rowling didn’t invent boarding school! Arnett had an original idea and she executed it really well, in my opinion. We begin with Dusty and Eli, and it’s a tumultuous beginning at best. Dusty is a dream-seer, and she needs to use Eli to discover evil through his dreams. Dusty has a nemesis, a siren named Katarina, who Dusty turned into a snake in one of their classes. Katarina has never forgiven her, and I was a little amused by their interactions. Dusty’s best friend, Selene, is also a siren, but a reluctant one. I liked her too. And eventually we meet Moira, Dusty’s infamous mother, and it’s easy to see why most people at Arkwell, and in the magical world in general, don’t like her very much.
Eli is understandably wary of Dusty, given how they met. He’s also a little bit of a jerk, but really, that’s par for the course in paranormal YA novels these days. I felt very little sympathy for poor Eli, the hot popular boy who can’t play football anymore. Boo-hoo. I was firmly on Dusty’s side throughout the whole novel. A whole lot of people were straight-up mean to her. She’s required to do the things she does, and the popular kids treat her like crap. Team Dusty. She meets a cute boy named Paul Kirkwood, but I tried to stay distant from him in case he turned out to be the Big Bad, or Dusty and Eli started making out. And there’s a Veronica Mars reference! I am really no good at figuring out mysteries in novels, and this one was no different, so I tried not to like anyone too much, but I failed in that aspect because some of Dusty’s teachers were really cool and/or interesting. And Eli grew on me, because, while he was a jerk, his attitude was understandable, and he really just needed an adjustment period from being an “ordinary” to going to a school full of magickind. Dusty still has a lot to learn about being a Nightmare, and she messes up more than once. It’s nice when your protag acts like a human and makes mistakes. Dusty is no Mary Sue.
One thing I especially liked about this novel was the “animation effect.” In almost every modern-day magic novel I’ve read, magic and electricity don’t get along. In Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels, for example, Harry’s magic has ruined cell phones, computers, and lighting at a television studio. In Dusty’s world, magic causes electronics to acquire a personality of sorts. Keyboards make noises that sound like the Three Stooges, computers talk back while blocking students from sites, and radios make random noises while playing songs. I thought that was neat and creative. It’s something I haven’t seen before anyway. I also liked how the supernatural people spread rumors about themselves to seem less dangerous to ordinaries. Fairies are not allergic to iron, for example. Arnett also makes a vague Twilight reference, stating that was more propaganda spread by thirsty vampires. I laughed. And lastly, the idea of The Will was new to me. The Will is a magical force that keeps magickind from physically hurting each other and ordinaries, both with their hands and their magic. It makes frequent appearances when Dusty dream-feeds, pulling her in and making the compulsion to feed too strong to ignore. That was cool too.
At about two-thirds of the way through, I started getting suspicious of certain characters. Things were starting to come to a head, mystery-wise. I ended up being right about one and wrong about the other. The ending was so intense! I love the mixture of recognizable legend too. So I definitely recommend this one. I had a lot of fun reading it. YA urban fantasy done very, very well.