Review: ‘A Semi-Definitive List Of Worst Nightmares’

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.

~Missy

 

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Review: ‘Everything All At Once’

Hi! I actually won this book through a contest on Twitter by the author. She is so sweet and I am so happy that I was able to grab a copy of this book. I received it before the release date but I wasn’t able to read & review before release because of vacation!

 

Title: Everything All At Once

Author: Katrina Leno

Series: Standalone

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

 

I loved this book. It is a fantastic contemporary about a girl named Lottie, who’s aunt dies and leaves her letters. The letters give her things to do that test her limits, make her realize her humanity, and give her heartwarming memories. Lottie also has elements of anxiety and so I classify this as a mental health book. Along the way, she meets Sam and discovers truths about him that she never thought were possible.

This story really helped to put into perspective what it means that we only have limited time and we need to cherish every moment. The letters written by her aunt, who died at the early age of 40, help Lottie to think about mortality and how she is so afraid to die. A lot of people are afraid to die but I feel like this made me appreciate the little things in life. Lottie gets to meet many people that influenced her aunt’s life and that leads me to my discussion of Sam. Sam is an interesting character all around. Lottie meets him after the first letter that leads her and her family to a party organized by her aunt before her passing. He is an intriguing character and begins to get very close to Lottie, which both scares her and excites her at the same time. That is until the big twist in the book, which gives it an air of fantasy and wonder that I wasn’t expecting but really loved. It adds an extra layer to the already magical story and pushes it over the edge, in my opinion!

I don’t see anything to fault in the book. It caught my attention from the first page and I was always excited to see what happened next. Also, the book is set in Connecticut, which is where I live. It was cool to read about places that I haven’t been to before (I have been told by Katrina that one of the bookshops is actually real, so I will be paying a visit!) in my own state. The use of seaside towns made the book feel very home-y and down-to-earth, which is weird to say about a book but that is how I feel about it!

I would recommend this book to those who are fans of contemporaries and also don’t mind a little extra mystery mixed in.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor

ARC Review: ‘Starfish’

*Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster (Simon Pulse) for allowing me to read and review this book before release*

 

Title: Starfish

Author:

Series: Standalone

Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

Starfish is a beautiful story about a girl named Kiko, who struggles with social anxiety and a self-centered mother. The diverse representation in this book is lovely and shows the grittiness of Kiko’s relationships. Her passion is for art and she follows this passion by going to California with her best friend Jamie, where she is able to explore herself and her artwork more deeply. This book focuses on issues of sexual abuse (trigger warning here!), mental health and how important it is to look after yourself aka self-care.

Likes

I had heard about this book online and I was excited when I was approved! Kiko’s character is extremely ‘real’ and I felt for her throughout the entire book. One of my favorite elements of this book are the author’s portrayal of mental health as well as the progress Kiko makes throughout the book, as evidenced by what she draws/paints. Addressing the first part, Kiko struggles with social anxiety and speaking up for herself, and what she really thinks, in order to save others from harm. She doesn’t ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings, even those of her truly horrible mother. The author utilizes her inner thoughts by writing what Kiko wants to say and what she actually says. To me, this shows the reality of mental illness in that many try to hide it and pretend that they are okay, instead of speaking what they truly think. This doesn’t just speak to her anxiety, though: it speaks to her personality and how she was brought up to be a quiet, complacent girl. At the end of each chapter, there is a sentence or two in italics that describes what Kiko creates artistically after that chapter. I found this to be interesting because it showed her character development through another medium rather than simply words and I was able to visually picture these creations. Kiko was a fantastic character and I truly could feel my heart breaking at points for her. I related a lot to the thoughts she had about herself and her self-confidence level, which brought the character close-to-home for me. I think Jamie, her best friend in the story, complemented her so well. He was the exact opposite of what she had been taught her entire life and he truly liked her for who she was, much to the surprise of Kiko. This book does not focus on romance, though, and I liked that about it because there were much larger issues that were being tackled in this story.

(Dis)likes

I really couldn’t stand Kiko’s mother. That’s not knocking this book at all: I have known people in my own life who acted just like her and thought that this element was important to include. It related completely to Kiko’s character arc and taught a strong moral lesson as well. Kiko’s mentor at art school mentions something about her mother being a ‘starfish’, which means that she is someone who always needs to be the center of attention, with the starfish’s legs pointing to the middle of that center. This helped me to understand the title of the book and also relate it to my recent experiences. It hurt a little to think about that because, like Kiko, it was hard for me to admit that someone I was close to didn’t care about me and only about themselves. I think this metaphor is something that is honestly going to stick with me for a long time and the dynamic between Kiko and her mother was heartbreaking. I think, though, it is worth pointing out that the rawness of this book is what appealed to me once I finished it and it quickly became one of my favorites.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book to those who struggle with social anxiety because it has a very realistic depiction and shows what can be said by family/friend support, and also what shouldn’t be said. This book shows what happens when you say the wrong thing but also when you say the right thing.

Happy reading! ~ Taylor