City Of Nightmares

HarperCollins/Clarion. Jan. 2023. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780358647300.
Gr 9 Up–Several years ago, Ness’s sister woke up from a nightmare as the giant man-eating spider creature that she’d seen in her dream, killing their father and going on a murderous rampage before being brought down by the Friends of the Restful Soul. Tragic, yes, but not unheard of in a world where anyone can wake up transformed into their own worst fear. Now, the Friends (which may be a cult) is all Ness has left. Ness is desperate to keep her safe room in their facility, but her entrenched PTSD has prevented her from being successful at every job available. When a last ditch effort to retain her access to the only home she has results in a near-death experience for Ness, she starts to realize that safety may be an illusion and trust may not be as simple as she thought. The infinite forms taken by Schaeffer’s nightmares speak to the individualized nature of fear and anxiety; although the metaphors Schaeffer employs are obvious, they are deftly handled and will affect each reader differently. Wild and vividly entertaining yet simultaneously thought-provoking, the nightmares themselves will have readers questioning their own greatest fears; Ness’s brave, almost irreverent attitude in the face of her debilitating PTSD creates a complex but relatable character.
VERDICT A wonderfully grisly and darkly imaginative tale that will entertain its readers even as it draws them into its web of self-examination.

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