Cover image for Nightmare
Nixon, Joan Lowery.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
166 pages ; 22 cm
Emily is sent to a camp for underachievers where she discovers a murderer on the staff who might provide an explanation for her recurring nightmares.
Reading Level:
"012 & up"--Jacket.

710 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.9 6.0 71685.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.2 11 Quiz: 34233 Guided reading level: NR.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



Emily has never fit in her overachieving family. Instead of getting straight As, she sits in the back row and hides behind her hair. As a result, her parents have enrolled her at Camp Excel--an academic camp for underachievers--for the summer. Emily doesn't want to go, and not just because she feels it isn't necessary. She's been plagued by a recurring nightmare since she was a child. And there's something about this camp that feels familiar--has she been there before? Why can't she remember? With the help of two new friends, Emily discovers that her nightmare is not just in her head. Someone at Camp Excel has a secret--and will do anything, even murder, to keep Emily from uncovering the truth.

Author Notes

Joan Lowery Nixon was born in Los Angeles, California. She attended the University of Southern California where she received a B.A. in journalism and later an education certificate from California State.

She has written over 100 mystery books for young adults. She is known for her Orphan Train Adventure Series and other titles including A Family Apart, The Seance and Other Side of the Dark. Her works have earned her the honor of being the only writer to win four Edgar Allen Poe awards and in addition, two Spurs from Western Writers of America. She was a past President of the Mystery Writers of America.

She died from complications of pancreatic cancer on June 28, 2003, in Houston, Texas. She was 76.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-10. The nightmare has haunted teenage Emily Wood since she was a child: a crumpled body lying half in and half out of the water; dead eyes in a pale, bloody face; a mouth open in a scream that no one can hear. Did it really happen? Whose body is it? Who was the killer? And who is now stalking Emily at Camp Excel, the summer camp for underachievers that her parents have forced her to attend? There's some heavy coincidence, but the late Nixon was a multiple award winner for her YA mysteries, and this one, published after her death, continues her inimitable blend of horror and whodunit, this time with a touch of shivery mysticism and a lively contemporary cast. Readers will rush with Emily to solve the puzzle, even as they shudder at the occasional terse statements by the killer, who is steadily getting closer to another victim. The climactic confrontation in a creepy cave in the Texan Hills is unforgettable. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

From the late Nixon (The Other Side of Dark), a four-time Edgar winner, comes this middling murder mystery set in a summer camp for underachieving teens. An inexplicable panic overtakes 16-year-old Emily when she learns she is being sent to Camp Excel. Then, on the drive there, she falls asleep and has the frightening nightmare that has haunted her for years, of herself struggling to break free of tangled vines and then spying a body with eyes and mouth wide-open. Emily feels even more unsettled when her roommate urges her to choose one of the future-predicting symbols from her rune collection and Emily randomly selects one that warns that "forces of evil" are working against her. Readers receive extra clues: intermittent, brief chapters introduce the voice of an anonymous individual who obviously works at the camp-and wants Emily dead. Despite some taut suspenseful passages, Nixon's narrative relies too heavily on coincidence. And, despite some clever false leads, the whodunit's denouement is disappointing, as the villain turns out to be a character who has remained largely in the background. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Since childhood, 10th-grade Emily has had nightmares about a shadowy, slimy place where she is entangled with vines and sees a body lying in water. She is so petrified by this dream about the open-mouthed and blankly staring corpse that she is unable to confide in anyone. Her parents are upset because she won't let them help her and are frustrated because she doesn't take after her two brilliant sisters. They send her to Camp Excel, an experimental program for underachievers, where Emily has a sense of d?j? vu, and her true nightmare begins when she realizes her life is in danger. Elements of suspense and mystery are cleverly integrated with the teen's problems resulting from what she witnessed as a child. Readers will once again fall under Nixon's spell as they enjoy this page-turner.-Susan Cooley, formerly at Tower Hill School, Wilmington, DE (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



CHAPTER 1 Shades and shadows slithered over and around her, trailing wisps of damp air, sticky-sweet honeysuckle, and the acrid smell of rotting leaves. Her heart pounded, and she grunted with exertion, struggling to get through the tangle of vines, knowing--even in her sleep--what she would find when she broke free. The crumpled body lay half in, half out of the water, eyes stretched wide with horror, mouth open in a scream no one could hear. In her nightmare the body was always there. Emily Wood's mother twisted, reaching from the front seat of the car to clutch Emily's knee. "Wake up, love," she said, her voice filled with concern. "You're having a bad dream again." Emily gasped for breath as she opened her eyes to the overbright early-afternoon sun that flooded the car. In spite of the air-conditioning, she was clammy with sweat, and her mouth felt dry and fuzzy. She struggled to sit upright, pushing back damp strands of the curly, pale hair that had fallen over her face, and willed the familiar nightmare to vanish from her mind. Mrs. Wood's face sagged with worry. "Emily, if you would only tell us about the dream and talk about why it frightens you . . . perhaps if we found a good therapist--" "It's only a stupid dream, Mom. It doesn't mean anything. I don't want to talk about it. I just want to forget it." "But this nightmare has recurred ever since you were a little girl, and now you're sixteen--almost seventeen. Isn't it time that--" "Mom! Please!" Emily's father, Dr. Robert Wood, quickly glanced from the road, then back again. "Let it go, Vicki," he said softly. "We're almost there." Mrs. Wood swung forward, ducking her head and burrowing her shoulders into the contoured padded leather of the passenger seat. "I was only trying to help her," she complained, as if Emily couldn't hear. "She has never let me help her. It's like her hair. If she just let me take her to a good stylist . . ." Emily didn't respond. She was tired of trying to explain to her mother that talking about it would make the nightmare more real. The bad dream had first popped into her mind, terrifying her, when she was much younger. Had she been eight? Ten? And every now and then it would unexpectedly reappear. The dead body . . . the blood on its face . . . the sickening smell of too-sweet honeysuckle blossoms. Emily was completely puzzled about the nightmare and what it might mean. She had never told anyone what she saw in the dream. She was sure she never would. The car slowed and turned into a wide drive under an arched sign that read camp excel. Emily made a face. Camp Excel? Who did they think they were kidding? Her mother sat upright and, in what Emily thought of as her let's-all-be-in-a-happy-mood voice, began commenting about the beautiful rolling hills and the bursts of gold black-eyed Susans and pale Queen Anne's lace that dotted the roadside. Her father added a few enthusiastic comments about the beauty of the Texas Hill Country in contrast to the flatness of Houston, but Emily slumped against the backseat, unable to believe what was happening to her. It had been no surprise when teachers had labeled her an underachiever. The surprise was that anyone expected her to do any better. Her oldest sister, Angela, had aced every test she'd ever taken. She'd been valedictorian of her high school graduating class and was now among the top ten at Harvard Law School, planning some day to join their mother's law firm. Monica, next in line, was also valedictorian. She had chosen to follow in their father's medical footsteps and attended the University of Southern California, majoring in premed. Angela and Monica gave speeches, led programs, and walked across stages to win honors and medals. The idea of trying to match what her sisters did, in rooms filled with eyes staring at her, terrified Emily. Content to disappear in any crowd and in any classroom, Emily was comfortable being little known and hardly ever noticed. She didn't even mind being classified as an underachiever, if that was what it took to be invisible. Emily suppressed a sigh, wishing everyone would just leave her alone. It was plain bad luck that her tenth-grade guidance counselor had called her parents, excited about Camp Excel, a new, intensive six-week experimental summer program for students who were not performing to their abilities. "It certainly wouldn't hurt to send you, darling," Mrs. Wood had announced at the dinner table. "Nothing else--rewards . . . tutors . . . praise . . . Nothing we've tried has helped." She had tucked a loose strand of her light, gray-streaked hair behind her ears and had smiled encouragingly at Emily. "According to Mrs. Carmody, Dr. Kendrick Isaacson has developed an absolutely marvelous summer program to help underachievers learn to do their best. He's gaining fame among both psychiatrists and educators." "I never heard of him," Emily had said. "I bet you didn't, either, until Mrs. Carmody told you about him." "Of course I have. His field is psychology. Patty Foswick, my friend in Dallas, has raved about him and urged me to take you there for an evaluation. But I realized that Dallas would be too far away for you to do any extended work with him, but in the Hill Country resort they're using for the summer school--" Emily's father had interrupted. "Is he in private practice?" "No," Mrs. Wood had answered. "He's one of the founders of the Foxworth-Isaacson Educational Center in Dallas." Emily had dropped her fork with a clatter, her fingers suddenly unable to hold it. For an instant she was numb, unable to see or breathe or think. "Emily?" she'd heard her father ask from a long distance away. "Emily? Is something the matter?" Gripping the edge of the table, Emily had forced herself to take a deep breath. As she'd felt her mother's hand clamp onto her forehead, she'd opened her eyes. "I--I'm okay," she'd said. "For a moment I just . . ." She couldn't finish the thought. She had no idea why she'd suddenly felt a horrible fear rush through her body. It didn't make sense, so there was no way she was going to say anything to her parents about it. She'd repeated the words over again in her mind, The Foxworth-Isaacson Educational Center. Had she heard the name before? She had no recollection of it. So why had it made her so afraid? Emily could find no explanation. "She isn't running a fever," Mrs. Wood had said, and had taken her hand away. "But did you see, Robert? The color absolutely drained from her face. I thought she was going to faint. Is there some new virus going around Houston?" "Nothing out of the ordinary," he'd answered. Excerpted from Nightmare by Joan Lowery Nixon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.