02 October 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 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.
When I finished A Midsummer's Nightmare, the very second I closed the cover, I thought to myself that no matter what she did, I would love anything that Kody Keplinger came up with.  If she decided to write about a penguin colony in Antarctica that was suffering from a salt water allergy, I'd read it and fall in love with it.  (Maybe penguins was a poor example, who wouldn't want to read about penguins?)  What grabbed me about A Midsummer's Nightmare wasn't just the promise of what Kody Keplinger brought to the table -- it was the deliverance of that promise.  Just reading the excerpt on the back cover got me pumped for this book: from the edgy main character to the premise, I wanted that book on my shelf.  Kody Keplinger, from start to finish, does not disappoint.

The gem that sparkled for me in A Midsummer's Nightmare was the main character, Whitley.  She was badass, but she wasn't surrounded by a diamond-hardened shell.  She was endearing to me because she showed growth through the story.  She learned.  It was a breath of fresh air to see a character develop naturally, like a Polaroid, slowing moving out of the shadows, showing bits at a time and at an uneven pace that eventually reveals a stunning, full image.  What struck me was that there was a blatant lack of the obligatory best friend.  Whitley's personal journey was to work through the bitterness she felt about her peers and to accept that friends weren't so bad after all.  Her ability to roll with the punches, but also to recover afterward, was what made her memorable in my eyes.

Kody Keplinger doesn't fool around.  When she tells a story, she tells a story.  The awkward step sibling romance?  Not something I figured most authors would've tackled enthusiastically.  But Kody Keplinger doesn't just focus on this seemingly impossible and inevitably awkward romance.  She presents a wonderfully balanced plot, moving back and forth to address issues like bitter parental separation, compulsions to drink and party hard, and the rough adjustment to accept someone as family.  I was impressed by the depth that Kody Keplinger tackled these issues.

Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) has a writing device she calls the one-inch picture frame.  Meaning that when she was overwhelmed with her writing, she'd think of her story through a one-inch frame and write only what was in that frame.  The plot of A Midsummer's Nightmare reminds me of that technique.  Whitley's story was very contained, focusing almost entirely on her, but supported by a small cast of characters.  Instead of writing off these characters and pushing all the spotlight on Whitley, each sub character was intricately defined, allowing for each character to leave their own impression on the main character and the reader.

Despite the awesome main character and great, humorous writing style (even accounting for the horrendous amount of vulgar language), the romance lost me a bit.  I really liked the forbidden nature of Whitley and Nathan's romance and how it fueled the passion between them, but Nathan came off a bit flat to me.  He had a lot of predictable moments, and to me it was because he was almost the only character that wasn't fleshed out enough.  It could've been because the romance wasn't meant to take center stage -- Whitley had more on her plate than just dealing with the Nathan Situation.  Despite the few moments I couldn't get into Nathan's character, I cheered for the romance from the start.

Kody Keplinger was an immediate success with The DUFF and I think she continues to bring everything to the table, even on her third book.  I can't wait to see what she'll have for us next.

The truth was, as cool as Harrison had seemed, what I'd told him was true.  I didn't really do the whole "friends" thing.  Not since middle school, anyway.  In my experience, friends turned on you, abandoned you, lied about you.  The best kind of "friends" were the ones you played beer pong with at a party and never saw again.  I just wasn't looking to make friends. (p. 61)
Nathan had to park his Honda a whole block from the party, which was a good thing for two reasons. First, it gave Bailey and me the chance to ditch him before we even got to the house. I don’t know about her, but I didn’t want to be seen with the guy wearing a shirt that said, MAY THE MASS TIMES ACCELERATION BE WITH YOU.
Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 304
  • published - June 2012
  • publisher - Poppy
  • genre - contemporary
  • received via - Barnes & Noble
  • rating - 5/5