A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
by Krystal Sutherland
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. 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. 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: 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.
Fifty fears, fifty weeks. Every week Esther will face a fear with the help of her friend Jonah in an attempt to find Death and break a curse on her family. The curse began with her grandfather after he met death in the Vietnam War and after that, he carried the stories of each meeting with Death onto his children and grandchildren. Her grandfather knew how he would die after asking Death and it struck him with fear each day of his life, crippling him with a phobia against the thing that would kill him. Now everyone in their family is struck with the same fate to suffer and hide from their greatest fear until the day it kills them and Esther dreads the day she discovers hers.
Our main character Esther Solar was insta-love for me because she makes awesome references to books and movies I love, she wears a different costume every day and best of all she’s Cakenberg, the one who bakes and sells delicious, sugary treats out of her backpack! She sounds like a great, carefree person but underneath her wit and creativity, she’s turned away from her experiences in life and adventure because of the apparent curse on her family but to me, that’s also a part of her appeal as a real, suffering person in a super unique situation. I really liked her idea of writing a list of every possible fear she could come across too because I love lists.
I felt so awful and sad for Esther’s family, especially her father and brother, throughout this book when she discussed how the fears had changed or broken the people around her but it was all wonderfully woven into the story. Eugene, Esther’s twin brother, had the darkest fear literally because his fear was darkness but it manifested in a way you didn’t expect and it was really frightening. Her father’s fear was really emotional too because he went down to the basement one day and just couldn’t come out. They tried crazy things to try and make him come out but he never did and after a while, everyone stopped going down to see him. It just made me so sad to think about him being all alone down there but the whole family was also really suffering from that too so it shows how these fears really aren’t just tiny things and they truly ruin their lives.
This book was incredible and I’m so emotionally impacted because it covered some really dark and serious themes but Krystal Sutherland did so very well with it. I didn’t expect it to go down a more serious pathway into depression and anxiety because I went in pretty blind but it was extremely comforting in the way she wrote about those subjects because it was also shining a light on how those things can be hidden and how they impact you every moment of your day. Overall I felt that this book was not only an enjoyable, exciting read but it also seemed in my opinion like a message to each reader on how we’re all stronger than we realise and worth much more than we think. I loved every moment of Esther’s journey through her Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares and I thoroughly recommend this amazing, touching book!
(Thanks to Penguin Australia for a copy of A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares in exchange for an honest review. A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares will be released on the 28th of August, 2017!)
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– Kirra // Goodreads