The stuff of Nightmares – Malorie Blackman

Title: The Stuff of Nightmares
Author: Malorie Blackman
Published by: Corgi Childrens
Publication date:  3 July 2008
Genre: Young Adult – Horror
Pages:  352
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal collection – Charity shop find.

Buy the book – Amazon

Kyle is on a school trip with his friends when the train has a tragic accident, but that’s just the start of his worries. His friends unconscious around him, But there is someone else awake on the train, trying to find him; Death. Using the tormented dreams of his friends, can he keep the ultimate fear at bay?

Promoted as a book for young-adults, I am not in the immediate target audience for this book, but I figured I needed something ‘easy’ to read after struggling with my current pile. This book was easy to pick up and put down, but I do question if the content was appropriate for a young audience – maybe upper teens would be best for this book as, the title suggests, it does touch upon some pretty horrific material.

For me, this was a book of two ‘halves.’ The real world, where Kyle is living and trying to deal with the events on a crashed train and the worlds in which his friends are struggling to deal with their own issues – their nightmares. So to, the story is enjoyable in ‘halves.’ The nightmare scenarios felt much better written and more imaginative than the slog that Kyle takes us through. Each of the Nightmares has been given much more thought and care than the over-arching plot of the story and I can recommends the novel purely for them; and much better books could have been written using any one of them as their origin. It is them that led me to read the book to it’s conclusion; even the final nightmare (Kyles) was well executed. Which sadly exacerbated the fact that the main, non-nightmare story was the weakest part.

I found some of the Nightmare chapters very disturbing indeed; even if I cared little for the characters suffering them – we don’t need to know someones entire background in order to empathize with them. I’ll only summarize some of the basics as I don’t wish to spoil anything should you buy and read the book; Murderous twins, marrying the Devil, Army career gone wrong, ghosts, jealous girlfriends. Some of the tales have a good twist to them that left me guessing while others I could guess part way through. The nightmares are by far the superior aspects of the book.

The writing style was fine and I had no issues with it on the whole, but there is a lot of first person in the book; even in the Nightmares that Kyle was observing which was a little confusing until I got used to it.

It does feel as though the book was lacking something throughout and the climax was more of an anti-climax, it’s difficult to really know what the ‘hook’ of this book was about.

All in all, I am left with a mixed opinion with this book. The Nightmares were brilliant, but the overall story was something to be desired.

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