Release Date: June 4, 2012
Publisher: Poppy (Hachette Book Group)
Age Group: Young Adult
Source: ARC received from publisher
Whitley Johnson’s dream summer with her divorcé dad has turned into a nightmare. She’s just met his new fiancée and her kids. The fiancée’s son? Whitley’s one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin’ great.
Worse, she totally doesn’t fit in with her dad’s perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn’t even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she’s ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn’t “do” friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn’t her stepbrother…at least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.
Tell Me More: Last week, I attended the One Direction concert at the Molson Canadian Amphitheater. As one might expect, the venue and surrounding areas were packed with teenage girls at their most excitable, crowing and shrieking over every little reminder of the boy band they were about to see. (My eardrums haven’t quite forgiven me for subjecting them to the high-pitched decibels.) As an infrequent concertgoer, I took the time I spent waiting as an opportunity to observe an age group with whom I rarely interact these days, and concluded that I might be too old to really sympathize with their concerns and foibles. A Midsummer’s Nightmare was a lot like that concert–I believe in the importance of its message, and it is certainly necessary to address its issues with teens, but it wasn’t a book that had anything new to say to me personally.
The plot is old-hat, and frankly very cliché. Whitley’s summer of freedom with her father is turned upside down when he introduces her to a fiancée and future stepchildren. It’s a common plot device in YA literature–The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants comes to mind–and not one that has a lot of wiggle room in terms of creativity. Kody Keplinger answers with a controversial twist, where Whitley’s future stepbrother Nathan also served as her graduation one-night stand. That was about the only part of the story that interested me in the first half, but it doesn’t quite reach a satisfying conclusion.
Whitley is what I could call a Keplinger standard: she swears a lot, is extremely cynical and can’t be bothered to care about anyone but herself. I’ll put it right out there–I did not like Whitley. There was a touch of Special Snowflake Syndrome that made me roll my eyes at her more than once–she ONLY listens to 90s music? She thinks having friends is overrated? I did not enjoy Keplinger’s previous protagonists either (especially Bianca of The D.U.F.F.), but fortunately, she comes the closest to a real character arc with Whitley. A lot of the problems that are brought up in the novel are ones that could be easily solved with a tiny bit of honesty, and it was frustrating to see many of the characters hiding from it and complaining at the same time. Whitley’s mental and emotional self-flagellation can grow old very quickly. Again, there is a real possibility that my frustration with this novel and character comes from having grown up. The six years between myself and Whitley have taught me how to deal with relationships and the importance of honesty, both of which she learns in the course of the novel. I appreciated Keplinger’s commitment to giving Whitley a chance to grow and figure things out for herself.
Despite my initial distaste and later detachment from Whitley, she remains the most interesting character in the novel. Her father and mother are shockingly cardboard, which does them a disservice. Nathan is exactly what one might expect from his character, and Bailey is unsurprising as well. The standout might be Trace, Whitley’s brother, whose tiny moments with his sister help to make her more real. There is a tangible connection between the two of them, and while I understand the necessity of his distance, it is a little disappointing to only have a handful of conversations between them.
Lastly, the romance in this novel felt forced. As much as there is no law preventing it, I was still very uncomfortable with the way Whitley and Nathan’s relationship progressed. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a bad decision for Keplinger to make, but it just wasn’t something I enjoyed reading about. I didn’t see their relationship as a necessary next step, and their scenes weren’t compelling enough for me to want them together, despite everything that happens.
The Final Say: Kody Keplinger’s newest reluctant heroine might be pessimistic and wry, but A Midsummer’s Nightmare offers teens a chance to learn from her experiences and be brave enough to make their own hard decisions.
Kody Keplinger was born and raised in rural western Kentucky. She always enjoyed writing and began working on “novels” when she was eleven. She wrote her first published work, The DUFF, during her senior year of high school.
Kody currently lives in NYC and writes full time. She enjoys Thai food, Converse tennis shoes, and way too much television.