Monday, August 28, 2017

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

Title: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Source: Penguin Australia

From the author of Our Chemical Hearts comes the hilarious, reality-bending tale of two outsiders facing their greatest fears about life and love one debilitating phobia at a time.

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.
Review by Nara

After reading Krystal Sutherland's debut novel, Our Chemical Hearts, I knew that A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares would definitely be a book worth getting my hands on. Of course one who writes something as good as Our Chemical Hearts would be able to follow it up with something just as excellent. And I have to say, she definitely did a good job.

Sutherland's writing is just very fun to read, there's a joking tone to the narrative that makes it smooth, and the many pop culture references (some of which I must admit I missed...) make it quite engaging. It's actually pretty funny, with there being many entertaining scenes- specifically between Jonah and Esther.

Speaking of Jonah and Esther, I was a bit concerned with how the romance would progress considering that the first encounter that we see between them is Esther being robbed of her phone, grandmother's bracelet and money by the supposed love interest. However, after that single negative encounter, the two develop a fast friendship that naturally progresses into romance and you definitely see how much support they give each other (especially Jonah towards Esther). Some incredibly adorable moments are seen throughout, and despite the rocky start, I wholeheartedly shipped the romance.

I was a bit hesitant to shelve the book under "magical realism" because I'm still not really sure whether Death is real or whether it's sort of just Esther's imagination running wild. I actually really enjoyed the stories (or realities...who knows) of Death and Esther's grandfather meeting and how the curse came to be.

All in all, an entertaining read with a different tone to Sutherland's debut novel, but still retaining the high quality writing and excellent characterisation. Well worth the read.

Really liked it
Overall: 8/10
Plot: 4/5
Romance: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3/5