Nightmare by Joan Lowery Nixon

“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 stretching wide horror.”(1) This is the first description of Emily Wood’s recurring nightmare. Nightmare, by Joan Lowery Nixon is a four-time Edgar Award Winner. This book is a mystery thriller and has many suspenseful moments. The book takes place in Houston, Texas at the summer camp Excel. One of the main reasons for choosing this book is because it is one of many Joan Lowery Nixon books and it’s also a mystery novel. The book focuses on Emily Wood; sixteen years old a misfit child that doesn’t ever fit in with her overachieving family, and normal high school students. Emily is constantly haunted by her nightmares. She doesn’t know why, but has a feeling that it has something to do with her past. Now Emily must find the truth before the past catches up to her. Maxwell Evens, sixteen and Haley sixteen, must help Emily find the answers she needs to survive the camp. Emily’s roommate Haley has some different perspectives on how to change Emily’s future for the best.

The story begins in the Wood’s family car. Emily is sleeping while having one of her terrifying recurring nightmares. Emily dreams about herself as a child running in the woods and comes across a body in the river. Emily is woken up by her mother telling her they are almost at the camp. Camp Excel for students that need a little encouragement in their academics. It’s no surprise her mother would send her either. Take her family for example, her father is Dr. Robert Wood; her sister Angela is a valedictorian and a Harvard law student while Monica is next in line for being high school valedictorian. Unfortunately Emily is not a very accomplished student because she tends to hide behind her hair. When Emily arrives at the camp she gets a flash of an old memory that terrifies her because she feels she been to the camp in the past. When she confronts her parent about it, they said they have never been there before.

While at the camp Emily gets a strange feeling she is being watched. At Camp Excel she’s not quite sure she should be there. The camp is full of underachievers but she feels as if the new place that was assigned to help her has a great deal to do with her nightmare and her panic disorder. One day Emily and her new friends are at a camp meeting, everyone is talking about their favorite past memories. As Emily’s turn is coming up, she starts getting flashes of her old memories. That alone causes her to have a panic attack and leave the meeting.

Emily now remembers everything that happened in her past and she now knows her nightmare was a little off but has everything to do with the death of one of the camp doctors from ten years earlier. Dr. Amelia Foxworthy’s death was claimed accidental after being found dead at the bottom of the stairs of one of the camp buildings. Emily remembers going to a childhood friend’s house near Camp Excel and playing in the woods when she heard arguing. Emily ran in the building as she saw someone push Dr. Amelia Foxworthy down the stairs. Emily ran through the woods and gets stunned by a flash which she later realized was the killer taking a picture of her.

At the camp, Taylor, a young girl that looks similar to Emily was found in the lake water. Someone had hit her upside the head and pushed her in the water but luckily Maxwell pulled Taylor out the water before any fatal damage was done to her. Taylor doesn’t remember anything that happened. “She is standing alone at the end of the dock, Its rocky there and deep. There is a possibility she can fall into the lake and not come up” (31) This is a journal summary from the mystery killer. Emily knew that someone was targeting her from what she saw years ago. Now Haley must convince her that there is only one way to find out if she is in any real danger.

Emily and Haley decide to go see a Curando, which is some kind or future/fortune reader. When Emily arrives at the Curando’s shop she has the disbeliefs that he can even help her. At shop the curando tell Emily she is in grave danger from someone in her past. He gives Emily this potion that is supposed helps her. Emily finds out that someone at the camp killed Dr. Foxworthy so Emily starts to investigate to see what employee at the camp now, was there years ago. Emily narrows it down to Mrs. Callahan, Dr. Anderson, and Dr. Weil. Emily goes to Dr. Anderson’s office to see if she had anything that could help with the investigation in her office. She sees a file in it that has a picture of frightened younger version of Emily. Emily hears Anderson coming so she hides in the bathroom. She hears Anderson talking to someone; she doesn’t quite know the voice but knows they are talking about her. Emily runs off out the window.

The next day there is a big trip to a historical cave site and Emily is a bit worried she thinks that Mrs. Callahan was the person that took the picture and was the one talking to Dr. Anderson. In the cave Emily get separated and lost in the dark. Emily hears the voice of Dr. Anderson coming toward her. “Just to our right there’s a rise some people try to climb on, even though they’re not supposed to. They’ll find your body below it. They’ll assume that you climbed and fell,” said Dr. Anderson (163). Emily was shocked and horrified that this whole time Dr. Anderson, head of Camp Excel, was the killer that has been haunting her dreams. As Emily sits there, frightened in the dark she hears Anderson coming closer and closer. Will Emily die? Or will Dr. Anderson be caught? To find out these answers read Nightmare, by Joan Lowery Nixon.

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