Whitley Johnson's dream summer with her divorce dad has turned into a nightmare. She's just met his new fiancee and her kids. The fiancee'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. Filled with authenticity and raw emotion, Whitley is Kody Keplinger's most compelling character to date: a cynical Holden Caulfield-esque girl you will wholly care about.
A Midsummer's NightmareFeatured
For one thing, Keplinger writes like a teenager so well. Both here and with The DUFF, I don't think anyone open-minded can deny that she has the lingo and cadence and emotional landscape down. In a lot of books, I mentally age the characters up in my head, because their circumstances (absent parents, not actually attending any high school classes) and way of conversing just do not necessarily seem teenage. In Keplinger's, even though her characters do things I may rather wish a 14 or 17 or any age person wouldn't do, I never feel for a moment like they're not teenagers.
To be entirely frank, though, this book did begin with a pretty major disappointment for me. I was convinced that this book was inspired by Shakespeare. For some misguided reason, I even though I had read a synopsis and that it was set around a high school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ummm, seriously, what the hell? Where does my brain get this stuff? That's not what it was about at all. I confess. I was VERY wrong. However, that title! It promises Shakespeare, and I wanted it okay.
However, A Midsummer's Nightmare did turn out to be inspired by a classic work of fiction, just not the bard's. Actually, Kepliger got some amount of inspiration from Catcher in the Rye, a book I personally really did not like. The connection, while not an incredibly strong one, lies in the mental state of the heroine, who shuts herself off from emotions by making bad life choices. She doesn't see the point in friends, because people are just phonies anyway. I'm quite proud of myself for having picked up on the reference before I read the blurb. Also interesting is that her step-family's last name is Caulfield. Nice one.
Roughly the first half of this book really hurts to read. It's a good hurt, the kind John Mellencamp might approve of, a straight punch right to the emotional gut. Whitley makes so many bad choices. She gets completely wasted, hooks up with whatever guy she can find, and avoids any sort of real emotional interaction. In the opening scene, Whitley wakes up on the morning following graduation to discover that she's in someone else's bed, having had sex with some (admittedly quite attractive) guy whose name she does not even know. Worse still, he wants to chat, when she just wants to get the hell out and not talk about it, so she tells him she never, ever wants to see him again, which, conveniently, shouldn't be too hard since he's moving.
Her parents, in stereotypical YA style, neglect her. Whitley's mother and father divorced six years previously, and she was glad of that, but her mother never got over it, still ranting and raving about how awful her father is to this day, and her father only spends time with her once a year. Still, she lives for these summers with him. Unsurprisingly, Whitley wants to throw a shit fit when she discovers that her father has sold his quirky condo by the beach and moved into a suburban monstrosity of boredom. With his new fiancee. And her two children. One of whom is that guy she had sex with the night of graduation. Apparently, his name is Nathan.
Whitley has always been called unflattering things for her drunken, boy-seducing ways: slut, skank, easy, whore. That never really bothered her before. In this new small town, with less people to blend into, the label really starts to hurt, particularly when someone she cares about calls her a whore or when she discovers a Facebook group formed to talk about her lewd behavior. Obviously, this is a hugely touchy subject, and I was really concerned about how it would be handled. Thankfully, Keplinger, after setting the stage and delivering a harshly truthful depiction of how cruel teens can be, sends precisely the message that I was hoping for. Since I know these issues can be an automatic DNF for a lot of people, I want to share Nathan's apology for having called Whitley a whore:
"'I'm sorry for what I said to you that day.' Nathan's hand slid from my elbow to my wrist. 'It wasn't okay for me to call you a whore. It's not okay for anyone to say that. Not the people online. And definitely not me.'"
What Nathan said was not okay, but he owned up, and he stepped up from there on out to make sure that she never lets her think he truly feels that way. When she doubts herself or blames herself for an attempted rape, he reminds her over and over again that it was in no way her fault. Honestly, I loved Nathan. He fucked up in anger, yes, but who doesn't? He wasn't violent, and he apologized wholeheartedly, and was completely supportive from that moment onward. Of course, he also happens to be both nerdy and built, so...can I have one? Seriously, he wears shirts that say things like "MAY THE MASS TIMES ACCELERATION BE WITH YOU" or that have the hand sign for live long and prosper. Also, the boy can kiss. Seriously, if you like hot kissing scenes in books, Keplinger has got your back. Just make sure you have some sort of fanning implement handy.
Even better, as much as I loved the way that Nathan and Whitley's relationship slowly evolved, that was not the central plot line of the book. A Midsummer's Nightmare focuses more on Whitley overcoming her issues with her parents, and learning to not be so self-destructive. Just for the record, I don't think there is anything wrong with her sleeping around or getting drunk occasionally or being a loner, except that those things did not make her happy. She needed to grow, and, as much as she hated it for a while, being thrown into a different family environment was the shock to her system that she really needed.
Keplinger's characterization rocked. Whitley, of course, rocked, confident and broken and funny and bitchy and insecure. However, the others did not take a backseat to her. Nathan, of course, gets quite a bit of development, but I've already talked about him. Bailey, Nathan's younger sister about to start high school, hero worships Whitley. Bailey begins as obnoxious to both Bailey and myself, but grows to be this irresistibly adorable kid. After a rocky start, Whitley does actually help Bailey open up and feel a bit more confident. Also, I have to say how much I loved Whitley's first friend Harrison. He is gay and utterly tenacious, simply determined to make Whitley accept him as a friend. The boy has style and totally has her back, but is also not a stereotype at all. There's a real affection between the two of them that is touching. Even Sylvia, the soon-to-be stepmother gets some good characterization. The only exceptions are Whitley's parents, but that has to do with the plot arc more than anything. Basically, I cared so much for Whitley, Harrison and the Caulfields; I rooted for them so hard.
I debated with myself (and my delicious glass of vodka and lemonade) whether A Midsummer's Nightmare deserved a full five stars. Maybe it's just my friend vodka talking, but I feel like any book that can make me feel such a full gamut of emotions and leave me grinning like a fool afterwards, in that insane post-book bliss has earned that five stars.
I loved Whitley from the moment I *met* her despite her anger, bad attitude and brokenness. All she's ever wanted is to be loved and to know she's "wanted" by her parents - something a lot of children of divorce deal with. *clears throat; waves* She hasn't had the best life and her lack of attention is reflected in the choices she's made but Whitley's always looked forward to her summers with her Dad. This year is extra special because it's their last chance to hang out before she heads to college but everything changes when he tells her he's getting married. Talk about dropping a bomb! To make matters worse, she'll have step-siblings, an annoying little sister and a brother who Whitley just happens to know in the *coughs* Biblical way *coughs*. Could things GET any worse? Yeah, actually then can...and they do. Awesome.
As the summer progresses Whitley learns that "family" isn't always about bloodlines and everyone is broken in some way but how you choose to "fix" what's broken is what matters. Being forced to face the consequences of her own choices, ones that could cost her everyone she loves, Whitley just might discover what's she's needed most has been in front of her the whole time.
With the help of some new friends (familiar faces to Keplinger fans), a swoon worthy "hot nerd" and the love of her family, Whitley may be able to save this summer and herself before it's too late.
I loved the story - it was so easy to get caught up in. I loved the characters and each of the stories they had to tell. Several characters from The Duff make a cameo appearance, which was so much fun to see!
Kody Keplinger really has a way with words. And she writes the best boys. Nathan was such a hunk and such a sweetheart. I just loved Harrison. He is so funny and is the sort of friend everyone wishes they would have. I wasn't as crazy about Whitley as I was the other characters, but she definitely had her moments. That being said, Whitley was a character that was really easy to connect with, as I felt like so much of what she went through was things I could connect with in some way.
A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger is a must read for anyone looking for a great contemporary. It was the perfect summer read and now I am sitting waiting for the next Kody Keplinger book to be released.
Whitley, our narrator, has more issues than she can deal with. At the root of her problem is her parents’ divorce, which brought her childhood to an abrupt end and has left her desperately seeking attention and happiness ever since. At the start of the book, Whitley’s a mess: she drinks, flirts, has attitude issues—the whole nine yards. She arrives at her dad’s place ready for for three lazy months by the pool. But, surprise! Her dad’s getting married, and her stepmom-to-be has kids…and Whitley had sex with one of them. Whoops.
I think maybe from the blurb, it would be easy to assume that A Midsummer’s Nightmare focuses on sexual tension and forbidden romance, but nope. This is very much a book about Whitley and her relationship with her family (both old and new), and how she ditches her partying ways. And I’ll be honest, sometimes the dialogue/actions of the characters was super-corny and made me gag, and I didn’t care for the cheesy ending. That’s just me personally, since I am not a mouse and I do not like cheese (I also don’t eat dairy, but that’s minor trivia).
The thing is: Whitley is a total brat. She’s selfish, unthinking, and rude. She behaves pretty awfully for most of the summer. But somehow, Keplinger manages to make the reader not only like this girl, but I was completely on her side. Every argument or confrontation Whitley got in for the duration of this book, I was pro-Whitley all the way. I think it takes a special kind of author to make that happen.
For a light summer read, A Midsummer’s Nightmare came with a lot of punch. I loved the focus on family, forgiveness, and acceptance. Whitley was a wonderful character. The story was engaging and a lot of fun. Kody Keplinger continues to be a solid author for me—she hasn’t let me down yet!
What I love most about A Midsummer’s Nightmare is how honest Kody Keplinger is. She doesn’t shy away from drinking or sex or anything else teenagers do, because it’s so real. I mean, I’m not saying I approved with Whitley’s choices, because damn, she made some terrible decisions. But I had friends just like her in high school (even eighth grade) and that’s why I love Kody Keplinger so much.
Also because A Midsummer’s Nightmare was steamy and swoony and I loved Nathan so much. I feel like after watching Clueless so many times, I’m totally jaded to the stepbrother dilemma, but I can see some people having an issue with that.
Whitley was definitely my favourite of all of Kody’s protagonists. She was messed up and she knew it and at some point, she started to take responsibility for that. She was angry and frustrated, but even still – she grew up. I loved her character growth, and I definitely felt her pain. Families are not easy.
Basically – I love Kody Keplinger and I love A Midsummer’s Nightmare. It was brutal and honest, with a heavy dose of swoon, and I seriously want to re-read A Midsummer’s Nightmare all over again very soon.
Review originally posted on my blog http://hobbitsies.net/2012/05/a-midsummers-nightmare-by-kody-keplinger/
I’d prepared myself for some serious weirdness going in considering the whole “stepsiblings” thing, but it didn’t really turn out to be that bad at all. I know right now you’re staring at the screen going “how could it possibly not be weird?” Well, it just isn’t. I think part of it is due to the fact that they “met” before they found out they were stepsiblings-to-be and the other part is simply that for much of the summer Whitley doesn’t think of him as family.
Of course, I hated Whitley for a whole heck of a lot of the book. Really, though, if you love Whitley in the beginning I’d kind of have to wonder about you. She’s mean and catty and basically hates the world. She basically does everything in her power to make the world hate her. But then there’s all the awesome people that come into her life and make her better.
Nathan, for starters, is pretty awesome. He’s a sweet geek who really cares for his family – including Whitley. Sure, he almost loses it a few times when Whitley throws herself at him, but ever the standup guy he doesn’t take advantage of her or the situation.
Then there’s Harrison. The guy is basically awesome. He forces himself into Whitley’s life when she refuses to let anyone in. He gives fantastic fashion advice. But I think my favorite part is how he doesn’t give up on Nathan the entire time. That is, his crush on Nathan :P
Can I just point out one measly thing that drove me nuts, though? Both Whitley and Nathan are 18 and yet they’re accepting groundations? That would totally not fly with me. Would you use the “my house my rules” shtick on a 30-year-old just because live in your home? No, so you shouldn’t be using it on an 18-year-old either.
The Nutshell: If you’re looking for a steamy summer romance about a messed-up girl who actually ends up okay in the end because of all the awesome people in her life, then Keplinger’s A Midsummer’s Nightmare is your book.
Whitley has created such an enormous self-mechanism through years that she refuses to attach to anyone. Every single day she copes with loneliness and is caught in the crossfire of a battle between her divorced parents. Her father is more like her best friend and she only gets to spend summers with him. Her mother is constantly complaining, her brother moved away and started his own family. Whitley, however, is alone. She refuses to make friends. She refuses to feel. And if you can't feel - don't want to feel - what kind of life are you living then? Are you even living one?
In the beginning of the book I expected to get this funny easy summer book with a bunch of witty conversations and an awesome female lead. Whitley wakes up after the graduation party and finds herself naked beside a complete stranger (good looking at least). And then the guy wants her number and she blows him off - it was a one night stand and it won't happen again after all. Next day her dad comes to pick her up to spend summer with him, but Whitley realizes this will be no ordinary summer. Her father suddenly has a fiancée and a new shiny Stepford family - and she has a new step-brother Nathan. The guy she slept with. Not awkward at all!
Through the story we get to know Whitley more, we start to understand the way her mind works. She parties a lot and she parties hard. Drinking alcohol in order to forget things isn't really working but it's the only escape she has. Dealing with problems this way - drinking and hooking up with random guys - is wrong. She knows that and she starts to pull herself together with Nathan's help and slowly realizes that she simply has to let people in. Otherwise she'll end up broken and alone, while everyone else will be occupied with their own lives.
I enjoyed the story all though it slightly bored me at certain times. When I finished it, I realized that there wasn't much going on - Whitley parties and screws up things, she hides from her problems, has occasional sparks of reason and talks to Nathan, she parties some more. I loved it though how in the end she finally opens her eyes and starts taking action. The writing however was great, I'll be sure to check out other books written by Keplinger. (:
Whitley was a messed up character, there was no denying that. But I liked her. She grew up a lot, she changed. She became a pretty awesome person and we as readers got to watch. I found her transformation to be honest and incredible to watch. Not every teen can be perfect, good children who don't do anything wrong. Having a character that messed up openly and had no shame about it was different and good to see.
At first, I was not overly fond of the stepbrother. He seemed almost as much of a hot mess as Whitley. But I think I came around to liking him before I liked Whitley. His motives were easier to see and I appreciated them. I appreciated him as a character.
As usual, I love Kody's writing. Serious love! Her writing is always honest and gritty and authentically-teen. Kody Keplinger doesn't hold back, ever, and I love that. The stories are always gripping and her writing clearly grows with each book.
I know this review is crap, trust me I know. But I did that procrastination thing so this review is not doing the book justice. I really and truly loved this book. A Midsummer's Nightmare might even be one of my favorite books of the year. Kody Keplinger has only continued to ensure she's an insta-buy author for me.
Basically, I'm telling you to pick this one up. This book includes some seriously wonderful, complex characters, some of the most honest writing in YA, and a story about family, friendship, and prejudices. Keep an open mind and go in, ready to be amazed.