Publication: September 5th 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
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
Trigger warnings for: suicide attempt, mentions of death, murder, rape, & suicide, domestic abuse, physical abuse, self-harm
I think it’s safe to say that I’m quite enamored with this book. A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LIST OF WORST NIGHTMARES (from this point on referred to as A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LIST) was my first Sutherland novel, and I’m incredibly impressed by her work.
A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LIST follows Esther, who believes that her family is cursed by Death, leading all family members to die from their worst fears. Esther doesn’t know what her exact fear is yet, but when Jonah, a childhood acquaintance, pickpockets her, Jonah takes her on a weekly adventure to conquer her list of 50 worst nightmares in order to reverse the curse. This story was so unique and so much fun to read, yet also shed light on some incredibly significant issues.
Jonah and Esther were absolutely adorable. Esther was a very likable character – she has a certain dry humor and sarcastic tone to her, which is what I have, so I found her to be so humorous. Jonah (who’s also black!) reminded me so much of Kenji from SHATTER ME (maybe less sexual), so I automatically adored him as well. There was a lot of discussion on mental health, such as social anxiety in the form of selective mutism, depression, agoraphobia, anxiety, and a gambling addiction; these disorders encompassed many of the side characters, such as Esther’s best friend, brother, father, and mother, yet none of these issues wholly encompassed a characterization – there were so many nuances within each of the character and really shed light on mental health issues.
Overall, A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LIST OF WORST NIGHTMARES is a funny, heart-warming, beautiful book that is sure to be a favorite for many. I’m definitely going to read OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS, the author’s debut novel and I’m surely looking forward to Sutherland’s future works.
Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Alice is an 18 year old college student who loves the oxford comma, television shows, and the company of dogs. She finds writing in the third person odd yet enjoyable. You can find her scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, and forever organizing her shelves on Goodreads.