Nightmares! by Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller
Digital Audiobook narrated by Jason Segel
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on September 9, 2014
Series: Nightmares! #1
Genres: Children's, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Paranormal, Young Adult
Length: 355 pages or 7 hours, 33 minutes
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Charlie Laird has several problems:
1. His dad married a woman he is sure moonlights as a witch.
2. He had to move into her purple mansion, which is not a place you want to find yourself after dark.
3. He can’t remember the last time sleeping wasn’t a nightmarish prospect. Like even a nap.
What Charlie doesn’t know is that his problems are about to get a whole lot more real. Nightmares can ruin a good night’s sleep, but when they start slipping out of your dreams and into the waking world—that’s a line that should never be crossed. And when your worst nightmares start to come true . . . well, that’s something only Charlie can face. And he’s going to need all the help he can get, or it might just be lights-out for Charlie Laird. For good.
After really disliking Otherworld, I was a bit hesitant about borrowing Nightmares!. This book has been on my TBR for about three years now, added around the same time as Otherworld. I was hoping that, because most my issues were related to the worldbuilding, I may still enjoy this one. Add in the fact that Jason narrates this audiobook… and yeah, okay, this one may be alright.
I still wasn’t a fan. And that’s a lesson learned – no more of Jason Segal and/or Kirsten Miller for me. Two of my criticisms with Otherworld were the cartoon-esque villains and poorly researched world. It was more glaring in YA, but it still doesn’t pass in an MG novel. These characters were all tropes or stereotypes, and they were exhausted ones. My issues were largely in the contemporary setting, however. In Nightmare, the gorgons in particular stood out as layered, interesting characters. But the Stereotypical Nerd With Glasses and a Perpetually Stuffy Nose? Or the Jock Who is Failing All His Classes? Or the Wicked Stepmother? I’m so over all these stereotypes, and when things like this pop up in children’s and middle grade books, it frustrates me, because these are getting ingrained as “normal” for the next generation.
Although Rocko and Alfie are cookie-cutter stereotypes, Charlie’s friend Paige is much better. She a smart girl, but I like her backstory best. Her mother suffers from severe depression, and Paige is afraid for her mother, afraid for herself, and has taken on the burden of growing up ahead of her time. Compared to the rest of the Real World characters, Paige is a breath of fresh air.
An aside that made me uncomfortable. Early in this book, Charlie’s stepmother Charlotte comes to pick up Jack and Charlie at school, and there’s immediately references to her as a sexy redhead and conversations only just shy of catcalling. The perception of Charlotte as a MILF in this scene was COMPLETELY inappropriate, and it was just creepy.
The overall plot ends up being about this kid, Charlie, who accidentally opens a wormhole into Nightmare because his thoughts are dark and he has a fear he isn’t facing. Of course, there’s side quests and pitfalls along the way to solving this problem and in typical middle grade fashion, Charlie learns things about himself as he goes along. There are good lessons to be taken from this book, so for librarians and moms, I wouldn’t write off Nightmares!. Charlie’s introspection and his slowly changing attitude towards his friends and family is a good reminder of how easy it is to become self-absorbed, and how it hurts others.
Like I said above, I still wasn’t a fan of this book overall. I feel like there are a bunch of plot holes and the characters were flat and felt too young. But I think that middle graders with a bit on imagination will really like Nightmares!. There’s quirky monsters and plenty of adventure. It’s an easy one to delve into, and although it’s heavy on cheese, a lot of middle grade novels are. There are good themes throughout, so it’s a good one for the younger MG crowd.
Do you have nightmares? I think my worst nightmares are those ones when I try to scream, and I can’t make noise! Share your nightmares in the comments, if you dare.