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The second title by author Aurora Smith is as good as the first (My Stupid Girl), with vibrant characters and that saucy, snappy tone so enjoyable in Smith’s first novel. In Nightmare’s Daughter, Smith introduces readers to a fantasy world where all the mythical creatures we grew up hearing about are real.

And they have kids.

And a summer camp.

***SPOILERS***

The start of the novel introduces us to Maya and the guy she’s crushing on – Justin, a hunky new boy in school with a French accents. Liam, Justin’s twin brother, is the real love interest, though. Maya and Liam meet on the bus to summer camp; Liam is kept out of school because of the horrific burns on his face and hands.

Smith might have created just a story about building a relationship between two kids with trust issues – she’s pretty good at that kind of story, after all. But the fun of this novel is that Maya and Liam (and Justin, and every other character in the story) is truly special. Maya is the daughter of the Boogeyman, Justin and Liam are Frankensteins, and their group of friends include mermaids, witches, pixies, even trolls.

The girls’ counselor is Mother Nature, assigned to Maya’s group because of their reputation as camp pranksters. With the huge number of animals constantly swirling around Mother Nature, the hope is that Maya won’t be able to wreak her normal level of havoc on fellow campers. Maya’s description of her counselor is one of thousands of delightful, wry, and subversive the way only a teenager can be:

I saw now why she sent her animals to do her bidding, she couldn’t exactly walk around naked as a jay bird, encompassing the perfect form of the female body. I wondered if any of the boys in camp had seen her, or if the ones who had just dropped down dead. She was very natural though. Very, very natural.

Maya can never get a full night’s sleep – her father is always hovering nearby to try to get her involved in the “family business” of scaring the pants off people. Understandably, because Maya is a decent human being, she struggles with the invasion of privacy inevitably included in traversing through the subconscious of others. But when Maya gets a glimpse into Liam’s brain, and then hops over to Justin’s, she’s hooked.

The secrets of the Frankenstein brothers only deepen when the book changes point of view midway through, switching to Liam’s confused narrative. As he struggles to reconcile his feelings for Maya with his resentment for her (and her father’s) knowledge of his past, he also works feverishly to cure his physical appearance. The first book in what appears to be a multi-book series ends with a few resolutions and even more questions.

Nightmare’s Daughter was a delight to read; and it’s YA appropriate without any heavy petting or highly sexualized scenes. It’s not just for the young’un’s, either. Smith’s carefully crafted narrative tone continues to be delightful, cheeky, and a joy to read for anyone who picks it up.

Five stars – permanent library collection.

five stars

Nightmare’s Daughter by Aurora Smith
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