Author: Dan Poblocki. Release date: 2010. Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780375842566.
Personal thoughts: If I’m being completely honest, this book terrified me. As I was reading it, I kept having to remind myself that it is a young adult novel, and therefore not “worthy” of making my eyes dart around and covering my head with the blanket at night. I admire Poblocki’s ability to create a sense of absolute horror with no gore or violence. The idea of the waking nightmare is quite scary, and I would only recommend this book to brave readers. Younger readers are likely to have nightmares themselves after reading this story. I know I did.
Plot summary: Seventh-grader Timothy July has been plagued by nightmares ever since his brother was wounded while serving in Iraq. These nightmares are terrifying and keep Timothy awake for hours. During the day, he sometimes finds himself imagining horrifying things while he’s awake. To make matters worse, Timothy isn’t sure what to think when he gets partnered with strange and quiet new girl Abigail for a field trip to the local museum. His best friend, Stuart Chen, is his usual partner, and is angry that Timothy unwittingly volunteered to team up with Abigail. Things get even more odd while the class is at the museum. Abigail seems nice, but Timothy can sense something different about her. When the two venture into the museum basement, the horrifying images from Timothy’s nightmares converge upon him, causing him to panic. When he confesses what is happening to Abigail, she tells him that she has also been plagued with terrifying nightmares. It seems that a curse has been placed on people connected with Abigail that is causing the things from their nightmares to torment them even after they wake up. Can Timothy and Abigail determine the origin of the curse and stop it before the terror consumes them?
Review: This truly frightening tale from Dan Poblocki is full of twists, turns, mystery and, above all, scares that will delight brave tween readers. Almost from the first pages of the novel, the reader develops a sense of dread at the horrifying images that seem to be haunting the characters. At the center of the waking nightmares is a mysterious man in an overcoat and hat. Timothy begins to experience these terrors as well, and is determined to fight them, with the help of his new friend Abigail. As the primary protagonists, Timothy and Abigail are very likeable. Timothy is kind to the new girl who everyone else makes fun of, and is also brave in his resolve to overcome whatever is cursing him and his friends. The story contains many different plot lines that converge in the nail-biting finale. Overall, The Nightmarys is an entertaining and terrifying adventure that readers are sure to enjoy.
Reading level: Grade 6+
Similar titles: The Stone Child by Dan Poblocki, The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn.
Themes: Nightmares, curses, mystery, horror.
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from School Library Journal and Booklist.
Series Information: N/A
- Did this book frighten you? What do you think are important elements in a scary story?
- Do you believe in curses? Why or why not?
- What do you think causes us to have nightmares?
- Describe a nightmare that you can remember. Why did it frighten you?