Krystal Sutherland is now officially an auto-buy author for me. I will read anything and everything she writes. I LOVED A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. L-O-V-E-D IT. And nobody is talking about it! Well, I’m here to talk about it and I hope you’ll decide to give this book a chance!
Semi-Definitive List and her previous book, Our Chemical Hearts, felt so REAL to me. Contemporary YA can easily be over the top and eye roll worthy lovey dovey no-way-this-would-happen-in-real-life feeling, but both of Krystal’s books have felt realistic to me and that’s what I have loved about both of them. (So yes, I also recommend her debut book, Our Chemical Hearts.)
Title: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Rating: 5/5 stars
Trigger warnings: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, self-harm, suicide attempt, and abuse. This book deals with mental health.
(I don’t want these warnings to scare you off from reading this and if you want more information about any of the above triggers in this book, please comment below, DM on twitter (@frayedbooks) or email and I’ll let you know more!)
Esther Solar’s family is cursed by Death himself and her entire family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime—a fear that will eventually lead each and every one of them to their graves.
Esther has created a list of everything that scares her, a Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. She encounters an old elementary school classmate one day at the bus stop, Jonah, and he ends up stealing everything she had on her – her phone, all her cash, a Fruit Roll-Up she’d been saving, and her Semi-Definitive List. But this is the start of a rekindled friendship between the two. Jonah wants to study film and after reading her list, wants to help Esther face her fears and film each one as practice. A win-win deal for both of them.
Week after week, Esther and Jonah face one of the fears on her list – starting at the end and working backwards. In the process, their friendship also grows closer, with each of them learning about the other and their family life. Esther’s twin brother, Eugene, and her best friend Hephzibah also begin to join in, facing these fears as well. Eugene has his own great fear – of the dark. Slowly but surely, they work their way through the list, Jonah filming each fear, each fear having a different outcome. (Spoiler: facing your fear of geese will probably result in them attacking you. There’s no way around this.)
Esther truly believes in the story her grandfather told her and Eugene as a child – that he met Death and Death cursed their family. In reality, the members of her family each deal with a mental illness but they simply look at it as a curse instead of admitting something is wrong and asking for help.
It’s okay to not be okay. It’s ok to ask for help. That is something Esther and the other characters in this story need to come to terms with. It’s hard to say what happens without spoiling the story, but something major happens that makes Esther and her family all realize that things need to change before its too late. It’s okay to ask for help from your family or friends and seek professional help.
This book deals with important topics that still seem taboo even in today’s society, but mental health is real and needs to be addressed. This story also has a lot of lighthearted moments that had me laughing. In the beginning, Jonah accidentally hits a kitten with his moped but Esther’s father, previously a veterinarian, is able to save the kitten. Jonah decides to name the cat Fleayoncé.
Semi-Definitive List left me smiling at the end and also hopeful! THAT ENDING. YES. SO MUCH YES. Perfect ending to this story.
Mental health is never an easy journey, but it is just that – a journey. It’s okay to ask for help and just like Esther, you don’t have to face your fears alone.