Monday, June 11, 2012

A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger


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 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.

After reading The Duff I couldn't wait to get my hands on everything else that Kody Keplinger had written. I haven't had a chance to read Shut Out yet but when A Midsummer's Nightmare appeared through the door yesterday I had to start it. So, 6.30 Sunday morning I opened it, just to read the first few chapters of course. I didn't put it down until I finished it later on that morning. I was drawn in by Whitley's anger. The story starts with the morning after the night before and she's trying to escape from her one night stand. Once home her mum isn't worried she's been out all night as she thought she was at Nona's house but Whitley hasn't been friends with Nona for four years. All she wants is to go to her dad's condo and spend the summer like they always do, drinking, chatting and lying in the sun.

When she meets her dad he tells her that they're not going to the condo, instead they're off to the small town of Hamilton. Not only that but when they get there she meets Sylvia, his fiancée - yet another thing he's forgotten to mention. Her son is Whitley's one night stand from graduation so things couldn't get any worse surely? Whitley has created a massive wall around herself and as the book develops we start to learn more about why she reaches for a bottle of tequila when things go wrong. It could be easy to dismiss her as bringing all her troubles to her own door but there's something very compelling about the rage inside her. I was desperate to find out what had happened to her after her parents divorce. I was touched by her relationship to Bailey, Nathan's little sister, who's nearly fourteen - the same age as Whitley when she had her first drink. Bailey is who Whitley could have been if she'd had some decent and compassionate parenting after the divorce. She's all lightness and innocence where Whitley is cynical and abrasive but their relationship works nonetheless.

Obviously in a story like this the reader is hoping for a great emotional story arc - for Whitley to grow and learn etc etc. Yes, I wanted that too - a happy ending, for her to be in a better place by the last page. But on this journey all sorts of things are thrown up. Why do we call a girl a whore when men are rarely criticised for the same behaviour? Why do parent's act like children then get surprised when their children don't do what they want? Why don't people understand that no means no means no? Why do we criticise the victims of abuse? Why do we insist on labelling people as this and that without even asking ourselves what's happened to them in their past?

What I love about Kody Keplinger is that her characters are real, they don't hold back in action or word and her books are all the richer for this.


Jenni said...

This sounds so good, I love books like this that are so emotionally driven.

Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

Oh, I really want to read this book! It sounds wonderful. I read The Duff last year and was desperate to read more by the same author.

Ελλάδα said...

Keplinger writes a solid and intense story! I was hooked from page one and I always love those type of books. There was no reading two or three chapters still trying to get hooked on the story. NO, it came right away! Whitley was a chaotic hurricane at times and she made plenty of mistakes, but I love Whitley and I wouldn't mind hearing more of her story! I have to admire her because it's the people that hit rock bottom and get back up again that really have the potential to better themselves and those around them. Thanks for an awesome story, Kody!