Title: A Midsummer’s Nightmare
Author: Kody Keplinger
May Contain Spoilers
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.,
This is the first book that I have read by Kody Keplinger. It won’t be the last. I enjoyed it, but found that the pacing near the end faltered a bit, and I felt that the overall conflict between Whitley and her dad was wrapped up too neatly to be convincing. Poor Whitley spent most of the book craving any kind of attention from her detached father, any kind of attention at all, after being ignored by him for the entire length of her summer vacation. Whitley was hard to like at times, but I found her father, a local TV personality, impossible to like, not even the slightest bit. Having messed up his first marriage, he pretty much treated his kids as inconveniences, doling out his precious time when it was convenient for him. I did feel bad for Whitley, because both of her parents failed her, despite her obvious attempts to wring any kind of reaction out of them. Her mother was far too bitter over the breakup of her marriage to give Whitley the guidance she longed for, and her father was too selfish being a hot-shot to give her the emotional support she so desperately sought.
When we first meet Whitley, she is hung over, just waking up from a night of partying that is appallingly hazy. She is aghast when she realizes that she slept with a boy she doesn’t even know, and after making him feel like a pile of dog poo when she refuses to give him her number and blows him off, she flees. Oops! She’s messed up again! She’s gotten so drunk she can’t remember what she did the night before, but as she regularly parties like a fiend, she shrugs it off and instead eagerly anticipates spending the summer at her dad’s condo. She will swim and hang out with him, tossing a few drinks back while they chat and catch up on everything they have missed during the school year. Poor Whitley, it turns out, is sadly delusional.
When her dad comes to pick her up, he waits until they get to his new house to tell her that he has moved and…wait for it… that he is engaged and will be tying the knot in September. Right about there I realized why Whitley can’t stand herself. Even her parents take no interest in her life, and since she doesn’t believe in making friends, she is sadly without any kind of emotional support. When she meets her soon to be step-mom and step-siblings, she has another rude awakening. The unknown boy she hooked up with? He’s going to be her step-brother. Ugh!
I found myself getting a little impatient with Whitley, because she isn’t a nice person. She has a chip on her shoulder the size of a whale, and she keeps a wall around herself that even an airplane couldn’t breach. As the emotional distance between herself and her parents yawned ever wider, she stepped back even farther from the people around her. Her blind worship of her father grated – it was apparent to everyone but Whitley that he didn’t deserve it. Both her mother and her father spent as much time ignoring her as possible, for two very different reasons. Her mom was still not over the failure of her marriage, and could barely keep her act together. She didn’t have the emotional energy to be there for Whitley. I understood Whitley’s confusion about her parents. Neither of them had ever acted like a parent, so no wonder she formed no lasting attachments to anyone other than her brother, who lived on the other side of the country and didn’t have any time for her either. What a sad situation to be in!
As Whitley’s nightmarish summer slowly passes by, she begins to make emotional connections with Nathan and Bailey, her future step-siblings. Despite her every effort to avoid getting to know them or like them, Nathan and Bailey are always there for her, giving her the emotional support that has been lacking in her life. When she is the victim of cyberbullying, it is Nathan who consoles her. Though disapproving of her irresponsible and ill-advised behavior, he never turned his back on her or rejected her. It was gratifying to follow along with Whitley as she began to mature and take emotional risks. As she developed friendships she began to like herself, and with that better opinion of herself, she began to respect herself. That was when she could honestly evaluate her relationship with her parents, and when she finally recognized that Sylvia, her future step-mom, was also always there for her. I loved the relationship between Sylvia and Whitley; that was what Whitley needed, and it’s too bad that she didn’t find a caring and compassionate adult until she was about the leave home for college.
So, to sum it up, A Midsummer’s Nightmare is a quick fun read about a girl who finally finds the family she has been longing for. Whitley is a hard character to like because she has no respect or love for herself, but as her nightmarish summer passes by, she begins to see that change must come from within herself. Neither of her feuding parents offered her the guidance and stability she craved, but she finally found acceptance from the most unlikely of places. I love books where the protagonist matures into a relatable character.
Review copy provided by publisher