A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger [website | twitter]
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Keywords: Re-marriages, Step-siblings, Family Drama, Drinking and Hook-ups
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format Read: Paperback from TLA (Thank you!)
When I read The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, I identified. I felt connected to the main character and really felt like I could tap into her emotions as she navigated her way through her life’s troubles. I thought I would feel much the same with Kody’s new book A Midsummer’s Nightmare, but I didn’t. I enjoyed the writing and the craziness of trying to figure out if Whitley would get together with her soon-to-be-stepbrother, Nathan, but overall I could not relate to Whitley in the way I expected to.
Whitley’s parents have been divorced for a long time. She lives with her bitter, self-absorbed mother, but she’s always wanted to live with her father. Since that’s not the case, she spends every summer with him. When she graduates, she is looking forward to her last summer with her dad before college – listening to good music, hanging out in the condo and at the beach, and drinking. That all changes when her dad pulls up to a new house where she’s introduced to the woman her dad is going to marry. The woman, Sylvia, is someone she’s never heard of or met before.
To make everything worse, Sylvia’s son, Nathan, is the boy Whitley randomly slept with at the graduation party she attended. How’s that for awkward?
There is a lot that happens in this story – Whitley deals with her issues by randomly hooking up with guys and drinking to extremes. She can’t talk to her parents – her mom is too focused on her own broken heart to see her daughter is struggling, and her dad is trying so desperately hard to make life appear perfect with his new family. Oh, and then there’s all the tension with Nathan. Should they just give into their feelings for one another even though they’re going to be step-siblings?
I felt at times that while the writing was good and Keplinger could tap into the emotions of an 18-year-old really well, it was lacking in some depth. There was a lot of build up and anticipation, but very few pages were dedicated to the story settling and all the aforementioned issues wrapping up. I don’t need for everything to wrap up in perfect little bows – my imagination can wander – but with so many big things, I just wanted more. Whitley’s feelings of invisibility didn’t really come full circle for me.
While I didn’t feel extremely connected to Whitley because of how she wanted to ruin herself to make her family notice her, I did enjoy Sylvia and Nathan’s characters very much. Sylvia was the antithesis of a terrible step-mother. She saw the destruction happening in Whitley’s life and wanted to step in. It was hard for her to navigate the boundary between caring for Whitley but not getting too overly involved. Though it is a little awkward that they were going to be step-siblings, I appreciated Nathan’s character. He was not one to hold back how he felt. While he had his moments of being a little too honest and come across as hurtful, I always felt his intentions were for the best.
I suppose my last observation is that I always knew what was coming next in A Midsummer’s Nightmare. I felt the overall plot points were fairly similar to The DUFF, and I sincerely hope that Keplinger’s books don’t become formulaic. Estelle went to a signing a few weeks ago in New York and told me about the new book Keplinger is working on. This one pertains to a very big issue, suicide, and I think Keplinger has the ability to really push the boundaries and go deep. I hope she does.
Image borrowed from People.com