The first time I saw the cover and title of A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares I knew I had to have it. The cover looked funny, the title pretty much promised me funny so… What was not to like?
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.
I felt like I smiled at least once during each chapter and that’s ignoring the times I simply snorted. Although this novel is heavy at times, it’s light at the same time as well. It’s balanced, which was definitely necessary to me since there are some hard topics mentioned.
Abuse, self-harm, bullying, suicide. All things we probably come across at one point in our lives. If it isn’t personally, then it might be someone close to us or simply because it’s spoken of, mentioned in the news. Reading, these subjects took a hold of me in a way I didn’t think possible. Aside from the laughter, I also felt the pain. It was a hard book to get through at times but it’s what makes it more likable in the end.
I liked the way it was written as well. Our MC, Esther, has a tendency of creating lists for things and I adored that. As a person who’s pretty much addicted to lists – TBR’s, to do’s, groceries, chores, anything! – it was a fun addition, really. Even if my list-addiction isn’t nearly the same as having your anxiety produce those lists.
And there were few things worse in this world than humans.
Yes, anxiety. If there’s one thing this novel is about, it’s anxiety and it makes such wonderful statements when it comes to fears in general as well. You could say fears and anxiety are the same, but they’re not. Anxiety goes way deeper, but the way Sutherland uses fears to get to the bottom of anxiety is gorgeous.
The worst part was that anxiety didn’t just affect the way you thought, or the way you talked, or the way you were around others. It affected the way your heart beat. The way you breathed.
But the best addition, for me? The mentioning of signing and ASL! I honestly love it when this gets represented in a novel so I was pretty much squealing. So far, the only other novel I came across that mentions this is Sublime Karma by Peyton Garver.
I’m confused! Is this supposed to be a contemporary novel? Or more in the lines of fantasy? I’m taking it’s a mix of the two but it felt so confusing at times. Like… Is this real or is she imagining this? Did that actually happen or is that just some weird way of seeing things? It was hard to wrap my head around sometimes and it kinda made me enjoy reading it decrease.. A bit..
“Everyone we let into our lives has the power to hurt us. Sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t, but that’s not a reflection of us, or our strength. Loving someone who hurts you doesn’t make you weak.”