‘A Midsummer’s nightmare’ is a companion novel to ‘The Duff’ and ‘Shut out’. It began promising, but it really became a YA nightmare. (Photo: Peter Henrichsen)

by Peter


‘A Midsummer’s Nightmare’


Kody Keplinger



Reading Level:

Advanced Beginner


June 5th 2012

Publisher, this copy:

Hodder Children’s Books

Feelings Thermometer:

At her graduation party for high school, Whitley ends up drunk and in bed with some random guy. She doesn’t regret anything next morning, but she doesn’t wanna see the boy anymore either, even though he asks for her number.

She is only determined to spend her summer holiday at her dad’s condo, since her parents are divorced. She doesn’t actually look forward to it – because the only things nice are sun bathing at the lake and drinking cocktails with dad in the evening – but it’s better than to be with her mother, who hasn’t got over the divorce.

But when Whitley’s dad picks her up, they’re not going to his condo. He’s moved – and moved in permanently with a fiancée and her two kids: Bailey, 13, who wants Whitley to be her new sister, and Nathan, the guy with whom she actually had sex at the graduation party the night before.

Whitley’s going to spend her whole summer holiday, two and a half months with her “new family”, and she can’t even stand the thought of it!

Sylvia, a happy-go-lucky-Coraline-button-eye-mom

Being a teenager is all about defining yourself, so it’s quite understandable that Whitley grows very angry with her dad because he hasn’t told her anything about her “new family” and his fiancée Sylvia, who reminds me most of a happy-go-lucky-Coraline-button-eye-mom.

But after 120 pages Whitley’s harsh bitterness is still the same. She drinks all the time. She flirts with guys, just because she’s got the looks to do it. And she’s really morally disengaged and unempathic, even to little Bailey, who loves Whitley even before first sight.

Just passing time

Well, of course, you can relate to Whitley if you’re also angry at your divorced parents and everybody at high school. But how interesting is it really to follow such a bitter protagonist in the long run?

Whitley hasn’t got any hobbies or interests at all. She hasn’t got any dreams for her future, and she don’t know what major to read at college. For more than 300 pages, I hoped for a surprise; that something exciting would happen. That Whitley actually would take control and plan something in this awful summer holiday, instead of just hanging out at home in the sofa, at her room, in cars, in malls and at the cinema and random parties.

But the development was completely linear: ‘Just another day at the authors office, honey’. No scenery description. Nothing to look forward to. Just — passing time. My precious time. (Oh, sorry, that’s not completely true. There were a thrilling episode — in the garden. Whitley gets sunburned! Yeah … oh, sorry! Spoiler!)

Excerpt from ‘A Midsummer’s Nightmare’

‘Oh, honey.’ he reached out suddenly and took my hand in both of his. ‘You’re cute. You really, really are, but I’m not interested.’
‘Why not?’ I asked point-blank. No use wondering about it for weeks or letting my self-image plummet because of this loser. Might as well cut to the chase.
Harrison sighed and took one of his hands away from mine. ‘See that guy over there, with the blonde?’ he asked pointing.
My eyes followed in the direction he indicated. Across the room, sitting at a booth by themselves, were Nathan and Bailey. Even from here, I could tell Bailey looked disappointed. Nathan was chatting with her, moving his arms in a big, over-the-top gestures. He must have been trying to cheer her up.
“I see him,’ I said, nodding. ‘That’s my … future stepbrother’ I choked on the last two words.
‘For real?’ Harrison asked.
‘That sucks for you. I could just eat him up.’
I gawked at him. ‘What?’

The … butterfly

It was all too black and white, so constructed. See, there could only be one reason why Whitley should behave like an angry bitch in most of the story: she was supposed to change to something better. To a BEAUTIFUL butterfly! Well, not really – more like a scary copy of Coraline-button-eyes-mom, but I guess you know what I mean.

That fact transformed a bad novel with a clueless protagonist to the absolute YA nightmare to me! Now, it felt almost religious: a girl who had been that unpopular and angry in high school for four years wouldn’t suddenly change, especially not with this superficial family, where Bailey were the only person who acted like she had normal feelings. Well, not unless there had been a divine revelation.

Bailey was by the way the only one I liked, and liked to care for.

The ‘sex with your step-brother’ tease

The scenes were well written, and the dialogues floated okay, and there were a few lines that made me smile, but a predictable 180 turn as the only plot is in my opinion pretty poor YA fiction.

Also, it didn’t push the story in a positive direction playing on the ‘sex with your step-brother’ theme, when Kody Keplinger didn’t even dare to write a beautiful sex scene, even though the blurb on the backside says “Sun, Sex and Step brothers. Another sizzling story …”.

To top it off, tell me why the only things left that could have made this YA better – the flashing of music and movies – was all about artists from the 70ies and movies from the 80ies!? As I read it this was present time, then why only play Joan Jett, Donna Summer and Madonna oldies and watch ‘Back to the future’?

I must agree: Reading ‘A Midsummer’s Nightmare’ really lived up to it’s name as it were my first 2015 YA summer holiday read.