The summer Whitley imagined spending with her divorced dad ends up being a total fantasy. Upon her arrival, she finds that her toxic bachelor father is a) engaged; b) playing dad to two new kids, and c) living with them in a tiny town with nothing to do. Whitley is upset, but that upset turns to horror when she discovers that her stepbrother-to-be is the last guy she had a one-night stand with. Despite her best intentions to remain aloof and unattached, Whitley soon discovers that she likes her little stepsister, has a friend (even though she doesn’t subscribe to the whole concept of friendship), and a really hot almost-stepbrother.
In what is without a doubt Keplinger’s strongest novel yet, she’s crafted a contemporary YA novel that’s going to resonate with fans and attract new readers. A whip-fast pace, quick, smart dialogue, and real emotions help elevate this novel from other titles offered this summer. This novel is perfect summer reading and can easily be devoured in a single sitting.
While the story’s central premise could easily be too much, Keplinger manages to keep it reined in. Her characters are remarkably well developed (with a few exceptions). This is especially true of Whitley, who is a completely imperfect heroine. Whitley’s not easy to like, and that’s the point. At no point, however, does the reader ever feel unsympathetic to Whitley’s situation. On the contrary, readers will be rooting for Whitley to speak what she needs to speak and start to heal. This is by far the strongest heroine Keplinger has written. It helps that the supporting cast is fairly well done, too. Although there are some pop-up characters from Keplinger’s first novel, The DUFF, readers don’t have to be acquainted with that story to delve into this one. Everyone from Harrison to Nathan to Bailey help propel Whitley forward as a character.
There’s something to be said for how Keplinger wrote Nathan. While he could easily fall into the “perfect guy” trap, he doesn’t. He admits to making mistakes–and actually makes some mistakes on the page, which helps. There’s no denying the chemistry between the two of them, though, and some readers will keep reading just for the sizzling tension between Whitley and her almost-step-brother.
Entertaining summer fare with a slightly more solid message beneath the surface, this is far and away worth reading this summer. It’s exciting watching Keplinger grow as a storyteller, and if A Midsummer’s Nightmare is any indication, readers are in for even better stuff in the future. Recommended.
A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger. Poppy: 2012. Library copy.