The stuff of nightmares – Malorie Blackman

Cover image of The stuff of nightmares by Malorie BlackmanNightmares are horrific and terrifying, but at least you always wake up. What if the only way to escape Death was by experiencing nightmare after nightmare?

This is a great book for both old and young readers.

Kyle is fourteen and loves to run. He runs miles and miles every morning. Is he running away from his parents’ divorce? What happened to his dad? One day, on a school trip into town, something terrible happens.

The train he and his classmates are riding suddenly and catastrophically derails and is hanging, precariously off the tracks.

His classmates are injured and bleeding, mostly unconscious. Kyle, fading in and out of consciousness himself, seems to be slipping into their dreams. Not only their dreams but their worst nightmares.

This book is a real thriller. The nightmares Kyle experiences range from extreme danger, to murder to post-apocalyptic survival. Each nightmare is like a short story, around a chapter or so. This structure makes the book a real page-turner and gives it an ever accelerating pace. The nightmares are so gripping, because, although disturbing, they all seem realistic, plausible even. Just like the road to hell is paved with good intentions, each nightmare starts off small and innocent and avalanches into something much more sinister. Many of the stories are allegories of parables and myths, like a modern, siren-like Rapunzel and a story on making deals with the Devil. Some of the tales with frighten the pants off you, but mostly they aren’t too scary.

Blackman is a great writer. She excels at showing, not telling her readers what is going on. Her descriptions of objects and scenes draw you in. She uses plain and accessible English, making the book easy to read – the plot and the characters make it hard to put down. I recommend not reading this at night!

From the back cover

It begins with a ride on a train.

But where it ends is on a precipice of horror – dangling on the border between life and death.

It’s a moment when Kyle discovers he’s not the only one in his class who knows about fear.

Not the only one who has nightmares.

And now, as Death stalks the carriages, it’s a moment when nightmares become real.

Nightmares of wars, and a world devastated by chemical weapons. Of a body being slowly stolen, bit by bit. Of monstrous actions and monstrous creatures from old myths. Of jealousy, obsession and a stalker outside your window. Nightmares of everything imaginable.

What will it take for Kyle to finally face his greatest fear?

Author: Malorie Blackman
Title: The Stuff of Nightmares
Publisher: Corgi Children’s
Published: July 2008
Genre: Thriller
Age: 12 and up. Not suitable for younger readers.

This review was published in The Student Standard on the 27 October 2008.

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