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Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

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Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late.

Awards: #1 in the Top 10 ALA Quick Picks, ALA's Rainbow List, a Governor General Literary Award Finalist, Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance.

Yes, it's my own arm on the cover of SCARS.

HUNTED book cover

Caitlyn, a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power at all can kill her, must decide between saving herself or saving the world.

Awards: A finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award.

PARALLEL VISIONS book cover

Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, and a schoolmate killing herself, Kate must trigger more attacks--but that could kill her.

Awards: 2013 Gold Winner, Wise Bear Digital Awards, YA Paranormal category.

STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

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Great Middle Grade Books


Nightmare Academy

Review

Nightmare Academy
by Dean Lorey
HarperCollins,(April 2007)
ISBN-10: 0061340421
ISBN-13: 9780061340420

My rating:



"Well!" Mr. Benjamin said finally. "I guess we had better go. We love you, son, and we trust you and we feel certain in our hearts and in our souls that nothing cataclysmic or disastrous will happen this evening."
"It won't," Charlie said. "Everything will be fine. I promise."
And everything was fine. . . for a while. Charlie played computer games, ate pizza, and watched PG-13 horror movies. Incredibly, he even found himself on the verge of making a friend--a tall blond kid everyone called "F.T.," which, Charlie learned, was short for "F.T.W.," which was short for "For the Win," because of his terrific video-game prowess.
It was the most fun Charlie had ever had in his entire life.
Then it came time to go to sleep.
Accounts differed as to what exactly happened during what newspaper headlines would soon call "Terror at Sleepover Apocalypse," but certain facts were not in dispute. At some point, around three in the morning, tremendous screaming and crashing come from the bedroom where the kids were sleeping. When the adults in the house finally managed to fling open the door, they found all of the children suspended from the ceiling, wrapped tightly in cocoons of extraordinarily tough webbing. The only child not encased and suspended from the ceiling was Charlie, who stared at the shattered bedroom window in shock.
--Nightmare Academy by Dean Lorey, p. 8, 9.

Charlie's imagination is so strong that when he has a nightmare, the nightmare creature gets portaled right into the room where he's sleeping. This caused a lot of problems for Charlie, including his parents becoming both over-protective of him and very restrictive, isolating him from other people and children. People are afraid of him, and he doesn't fit in anywhere. Charlie is very lonely, until one day some people come from the Nightmare Academy, a school that trains children with imagination to fight the monsters from the Netherworld. Charlie is one of the most powerful people at the academy, and he still doesn't fit in--but he gains a few good friends and starts his training. He ends up having to fight powerful monsters, work to save his family, and deal with bullies. Through this, Charlie finds that he can use his imagination and self-doubt for good--and he can find his own place to fit in, after all. Don't let the cover fool you--this is a funny, light-hearted fantasy.

Lorey opens the book by showing us how lonely and alone Charlie is, bringing instant reader empathy, and then quickly moves into zany humor. This humor and kookiness runs throughout the book; Lorey has a good sense of comedic timing. THe humor plus the array of characters who support Charlie and look out for him, help to bring lightness to the story. Although the monsters are presented as a threat, they never seem truly scary, and Charlie always overcomes or overpowers them. Even sections of the story that might take a much deeper, more serious tone in another book are suffused with lightness in this one, so the book feels like a pleasure read, never taking the reader to truly dark places or painful emotion. This is not a tension-fraught book. The fantasy explanations for some of the things that happen in the real world also add fun and lightness--such as Gremlins coming to Earth and eating up the power, creating rolling blackouts in New York and California.

Charlie is a likeable character, easy to identify with and care about. He starts out lonely, isolated, and in what seems almost like abuse at home, and in the end becomes a hero. He has a strong imagination, wants to do the right thing, and cares about his parents--though, from the early pages, it's hard to see why. Occasionally we lose Charlie as other characters or action takes over, and there are some POV changes that can distract the reader, but mostly Charlie is the strongest part of the book--the character we really care about.

Lorey adds an interesting twist--at the Nightmare Academy, self-doubt, fear, and insecurity can make a person's gift stronger IF the person is willing to open up to those feelings. So Charlie, who's experienced a lot of isolation and pain that has led him to feel insecure and alone, becomes one of the most powerful people there because he's able to easily open up to that strong feeling. I like this twist. It seems true in the real world, if you look at some of the great artists and writers; many of them experienced great pain or self-doubt. And while at first I wasn't sure if I liked it, I think that it's nice to have a positive twist for readers who experience a lot of self-doubt and fear, instead of the general disdain that society can have towards such people.

Charlie is made to look all the more powerful through contrast; he's able to easily do things using his imagination that most of the powerful adult members of the academy can't do. Charlie's strong power combined with his insecurity and his occasional mistakes helps the reader like him, believe in him, and root for him throughout the book.

Some other characters feel like caricatures, almost slap-stick characters with language that feels so put on and over-the-top it doesn't feel real--such as Charlie's parents. And it may be confusing for readers that there is initially so much focus and attention placed on the Nightmare Academy team when later they fade more into the background, as Charlie's new young friends become the key players with him. Still, the Nightmare Academy team of adults continue to be present throughout the story, and they provide some comfort as they side with Charlie. Pinch also offers a contrast between what Charlie is, with his openness to his imagination and fears, and what Pinch--or the reader, or some adults--could be like, by closing off their imagination and fears. This makes Charlie--and the gift of imagination--seem all the more special.

Lorey's great attention to detail when he initially describes characters makes the characters seem unique, and gives us something to identify them with later on. At times unnecessary dialogue and exposition slows down the story almost to a halt, but once those sections are passed, the story quickly picks up again, and easily keeps and holds reader interest.

Lorey sets out the rules of his fantasy world clearly, but then sometimes seems to contradict his own rules. On the whole, though, they are easy to follow. Lorey also includes some great plot twists, especially in the last fifth of the book, which increases reader enjoyment.

If you're looking for a fun, light-hearted fantasy read, check this book out. This is a book that will appeal to boys, especially, but also girls, fantasy lovers, and anyone who enjoys a fun or funny read. I had fun reading it.

-Added January 09, 2008


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