A semi-definitive list of worst nightmares, by Krystal Sutherland. (General fiction, adult, teens, YA)
Esther Solar's family is . . . unusual.
Her father hasn't left the basement in six years.
Her brother is terrified of darkness.
Esther isn't afraid of anything – because she avoids pretty much everything.
Elevators are off limits, as are open spaces, crowds, family pets, birds, needles, haircuts, dolls and mirrors.
But when Esther is pickpocketed by her cocky old classmate Jonah Walker, Esther and Jonah become surprising friends.
Jonah sets a challenge: every week they must work their way through the world's fifty most common phobias. Skydiving, horse riding, beekeeping, public speaking, reptilehouses – they plan to do it all.
Soon their weekly foray into fear becomes the only thing that keeps them tethered to reality, and to each other.
But each is keeping a secret from the other, a secret that threatens to rip them apart. (From the blurb)
This book was not at all what I expected, it was so much more.
I knew I was hooked just a few lines in, I loved Esther immediately and the writing is so quirky.
Don't be fooled by the quirkiness though, it's undoubtedly the thing that keeps the story from being heavy but it's so much more than just a bit of quirky teen fiction.
Esther's family believe they are cursed, her father hasn't left the basement for years, her mother surrounds herself with good luck charms and has a serious gambling addiction, Eugene, her twin brother is terrified of the dark, but he is actually depressed, suicidal, her best friend doesn't speak, even Esther thought she was an imaginary friend, as for Esther, she's afraid of a multitude of things, most of all, being seen, really seen.
Jonah, was Esther's friend when they were just 8 but she hasn't seen him since, he comes back into her life after pickpocketing her at a bus stop.
Together they face Esther's fears.
A semi-definitive list of worst nightmares is woven out of all of the different characters problems, it deals with anxiety, addiction, depression and suicide.
There is a suicide attempt by a main character, which is important to know in case you're not in the right place to read about that right now.
There's a touch of supernatural woven through the story but it's done in such a way that you can, I feel, interpret it how you will, is it real, or is it in the imagination of the characters?
The tale of Reginald Solar, Esther's grandfather, ex-cop, who believes he knew Death – the grim reaper, adds so much to the story. Often these concurrent stories, flashing back to the past, end up being entirely superfluous, but this was not one of those.
I felt the way the book dealt with mental illness was spot on, there wasn't just one character affected, it showed that all kinds of people suffer in different ways.
It was, despite how it may sound so far, an uplifting story about love, friendship, facing your anxieties and accepting help. The book is not patronising and doesn't make light of the subject matter but Krystal Sutherland does this without making the book a hard slog to read.
Saying that, it is one you'll want to give your full attention.
I enjoyed this book so much that it's definitely one I'll want to read again. It made me think, and I'll be thinking about it for a while. I love a book that can do that.
A semi-definitive list of worst nightmares is published on September 5th and it's a book I wholeheartedly recommend.
It gets a thoroughly well deserved five stars from me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley for review purposes but all thoughts and opinions are my own.