A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares

“People got tired of mental illness when they found out they couldn’t fix it.”

Title: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares

Author: Krystal Sutherland

Series: Standalone

Publication: September 5th 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Pages: 256

Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

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.


A Listical of Thoughts:

  • This book is unexpected, in a great way. It’s long for a contemporary, but also worth it? It sort of just… catches you by surprise.
  • It’s cute and also has its ups and downs. It’s more than a romance – it remains true to itself. A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares is a detailed story about mental illness without sacrificing the quirks that make it more than just another YA contemporary about mental illness.
  • I really love bucket list based books. There is something so fascinating about planning out your worst fears or deepest desires and then trying to follow through with them in some way. Plus, there is always another addition for the plot.
  • My favorite part of the book had to be Esther and Eugene’s relationship and her discourse on depression. It was simple, yet profound and accurate and it was refreshing to read.
  • The fantasy elements provided an eerie sense of magical realism to the novel – readers are left unsure of what is fact and what is made up… and it’s quite disconcerting in the best way possible for a book of this type.
  • One downside is the lack of concrete setting till about halfway through the book. I was very confused, which might have been intentional but I’m not really sure. I had a hard time placing the characters in the real world, or any world, really.
  • The characters and the exploration of mental illness, and the different kinds and ways it affects people on an individual type basis was handled well. It was detailed, informative, but not nuanced. Most issues were given the time and space they deserved.
  • The romance was super cute, enough said, right? CUTE! Just Jonah is precious and I love him and I kind of want one.


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