Heyyy hey guys! It’s been so long since I’ve posted, but I’m going to make up for it by presenting you this (in my opinion) awesome review of Krystal Sutherland’s new novel – A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares!!!
(Thank you to Penguin Random House Australia for sending me this novel in exchange for my honest review! This in no way affects my thoughts or opinions of this book.)
Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther’s father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years, her twin brother can t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck.
The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them.
Esther doesn’t know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, and crowds are all off-limits. So are haircuts, spiders, dolls, mirrors and three dozen other phobias she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.
Then Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate. Along with her phone, money and a fruit roll-up she d been saving, Jonah also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn’t counted on: love.
Trigger Warning: Suicide, Self-Harm, Domestic Abuse
I was so excited when I heard that Krystal would be releasing her second novel in September and I was even more thrilled to be sent an proof! I read this book on a day trip to an island and it was the most relaxing day I’ve ever had in a long while!
Okay, about the book: I adored the characters – especially Esther, Jonah and Eugene. They are flawed, relatable, unique and authentic. When Esther was first introduced, wearing a Red-riding hood costume, I was like ‘oh my gosh she is SO cool!’. And within the first few pages, we are introduced to pretty much all the main characters of the novel – which is good
I hate it when I can’t figure out who’s who and get things mixed up. The story begins when Esther was reunited with old elementary school classmate, Jonah Smallwood (a guy that she had a crush on and apparently looks like Flynn from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.) The reunion was unfortunately, a rocky one. BUT, Esther has a big heart and things did pick up after that and it was great to see conflicts happening at the start of the book and not just in the middle and/or end. Keeps things interesting y’know!
“I don’t hate her for what she’s become. I want to, but I can’t. I love her too much. That’s the problem. That’s what’s wrong with love. Once you love someone, no matter who they are, you’ll always let them destroy you. Every single time.” Even the very best people found ways to hurt the ones they loved.”
The Writing. It was so refreshing! I loved it! It was slightly odd in the first few chapters
which may or may not include bombarding of information, but when I got used to it, I was surprised! It was full of quirks, funny remarks and pop culture reference a ka the shit I live for. And if you know me on Bookstagram, you would know that I am a Fantasy nut, because I often find contemporary being too ‘fluffy’ and ‘I-can-already-guess-how-this-is-going-to-end-and-it’s-only-chapter-3’. With Krystal’s books (Our Chemical Hearts included), this is never the case! The plot flows according to ‘plan’ and suddenly BAMM, woah I did not expect that. There are mystery and semi-fantasy aspects which were also weaved into the novel and I weirdly enjoyed them as well! There are some scenes which could be edited more as they were a tad bit confusing, but then again, I do love an unreliable narrator sometimes.
The Themes! As the story goes on, themes of mental illness (such as anxiety, obsessive behaviour) self-harm and domestic abuse are explored – and I couldn’t be more happier with the way Krystal describe those issues in a creative and uncomplicated way. In med school, I am currently studying a module on psychological medicine and I now have a much greater insight on mental health and its importance, and it’s great to see it being addressed! The themes in this novel were explored thoroughly and not just scratching-the-surface – which was what made this book a 4 star read! (This book does contain triggers of suicide, self-harm and domestic abuse, so please be aware of that.)
I laughed so hard at this bit #relatable:
“Oh, I know what we’re going to see,” Jonah said as they walked toward the college library. “Med students don’t actually count as dead people Esther. They may look like zombies but they still have a pulse. Shocking, I know.”
Relationships. Many types of relationships are explored: friendship, romantic relationship, bond with siblings, relationship with parents, grandparents, relationship with a ‘character-who-isn’t-really-a-character-but-is-sort-of-a-character and so on. My favourite was obviously Esther and Jonah’s friendship, even though it was an unlikely one. I think that this type of friendship – where both people try to encourage each other and bring out their best self – is what we need in books (
and IRL too of course). I also adore the sibling/twin bond between Esther and Eugene – they both care for each other a hell lot, and always look out for one and other, me heart *clutches chest*. I occasionally felt angry at Esther’s mum for dumping all the responsibilities on Esther, especially when the family is practically falling apart. This provides a real insight on how awful things can be when family ties are stretched. I am getting emotional.
Last quote I promise:
“As soon as you admitted to loving someone, you suddenly had a lot to lose. You freely gave them a way to hurt you”
The ending had me practically screaming in glee and in frustration all within several paragraphs.
It was touching ok. It could not have been done better. So bravo Krystal!!! This book was incredible and I’m emotionally attached, because Krystal brilliantly tackled some of the hardest themes that need to be tackled. This also novel sheds light on how things can be hidden deep down in a person and how this can impact everyone around them – and it’s important that we start the conversation. A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares sends an encouraging message to the reader that we’re all much stronger than we realise and never underestimate yourself. I loved every little moment of Esther’s journey and I highly recommend you pick up this beautiful book!
© Bibliophilic Med Student 2017. All Rights Reserved. Please do not use without permission. All opinions are my own and you can find me on Bookstagram @bibliomeds. You can also follow me on Goodreads.