Title: The Nightmare Dilemma
Author: Mindee Arnett (The Nightmare Affair)
Publisher: Tor Teen
The second in a thrilling new fantastical mystery series
Dusty Everhart might be able to predict the future through the dreams of her crush, Eli Booker, but that doesn’t make her life even remotely easy. When one of her mermaid friends is viciously assaulted and left for dead, and the school’s jokester, Lance Rathbone, is accused of the crime, Dusty’s as shocked as everybody else. Lance needs Dusty to prove his innocence by finding the real attacker, but that’s easier asked than done. Eli’s dreams are no help, more nightmares than prophecies.
To make matters worse, Dusty’s ex-boyfriend has just been acquitted of conspiracy and is now back at school, reminding Dusty of why she fell for him in the first place. The Magi Senate needs Dusty to get close to him, to discover his real motives. But this order infuriates Eli, who has started his own campaign for Dusty’s heart.
As Dusty takes on both cases, she begins to suspect they’re connected to something bigger. And there’s something very wrong with Eli’s dreams, signs that point to a darker plot than they could have ever imagined.
Last year, The Nightmare Affair was a perfectly enjoyable debut, and its sequel seems to be following the same route: it was entertaining and I look forward to the next book, but I’m not sure how much I’ll remember of it when that comes out.
I had a bit of trouble remembering some of the things that happened in the first book when I first started this one. There was some recap sprinkled in, of course, but there were some things that I think could have been explained better (although I know that it would have annoyed me if there were more recap sentences/paragraphs if I had actually remembered everything). As such, the beginning was slightly rough because I was trying to remember what had happened while still paying attention to what was happening. Other than that, though, I was interested from the very beginning of the book, which is always a good thing. It was rough, but perfectly adequate.
The rest of the story kept me interested as well. I wanted to know what was going to happen with the main plot and mystery, but I also wanted to learn more about various side plots and such. I wasn’t frantically turning the pages at breakneck speed, but I did read it in just a day or so, so I was obviously interested enough to try and find out what would happen in a timely manner. Sometimes things seemed slightly disjointed, although I can’t explain what exactly happened to make things seem slightly uneven, and it really didn’t bother me too much once I was done – otherwise I would probably remember it as a problem more!
I think I’m starting to get a better handle on how Dusty is, as well as other secondary characters. I think one of the big problems with this was that I didn’t always remember what the characters had done in the first book and what headspace they had been in at the end of that book, so I had trouble figuring out if these characters made sense with the first book or not. So, it was another example of slightly uneven characterizing simply because I didn’t remember and I was a little unsure of myself.
That being said, though, I did think the characters were interesting. Selene, Dusty’s best friend and roommate, continues to be my favorite character because she’s pretty down-to-earth and is the siren equivalent of a feminist (and I’m sure she’s a regular feminist as well), always speaking out about how unfairly sirens are treated and objectified and such. I wish that was an element that could have been expanded upon, and I don’t think it played as big a role as it did in the introduction of the character, but it’s definitely something that I think could be explored in the third book.
The World Building
The unfair treatment of sirens is just one example of tensions and issues in the magical world of this story. I think there are some places that could have been stronger (like learning more about the magical government and what goes on at their island, where the climax of this story takes place), but the fact that it looked at the tensions among the three groups (Naturekind, Darkkind, and Witchkind, if I remember correctly) more than made up for it. This book is really setting things up for an interesting exploration and battle among these groups, and it reminds me a bit of Harry Potter, with some of its exploration of unfair treatment (house elves, anyone?), so I think this could be really interesting as long as it’s handled in the right way and isn’t swept under the rug.
The Adult Situation
Because this takes place at a boarding school, it’s not too surprising that there aren’t too many adults wandering throughout this story, but they’re there enough that I’m not too annoyed. Dusty’s mom shows up in the latter half, and there are some adult authority figures who sometimes help out Dusty and her friends, so they have enough of a presence that I’m not going to complain too much.
I do like the romance in this book – I think it’s quite cute at times – but by the end of the book, there was a bit too much romantic drama for me. There’s something that we find out about by the end of the book and it just frustrated me when I think it was supposed to make me concerned and excited for the romance. Sorry, but I just want them to work out or I’m just not going to care. They’re a perfectly cute couple, but if there’s going to be drama, I’m really not sure that I care enough to sit through that (I mean, I still am, but I might be rolling my eyes at the drama more than I would like).
Other than the romantic drama at the end, it was explosive (kind of literally) and entertaining. It got me excited for the next book – it wrapped up various elements of this story while still leaving some strings hanging and waiting to be picked up by the next book.
So, all in all, I was quite happy with this book – it was a very nice way to pass a couple of days of reading. I’m not sure how much I’m going to remember when I finally read the final book, but I will still look back fondly on this second book, so that’s good enough for me right now.