Review: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland


From Putnam: 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 Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland (Putnam), in addition to having a fantastic title, is a quirky read that leaves you guessing. It’s darkly funny and full of interesting characters.

Love interest Jonah has his morally questionable moments (such as pick-pocketing and leaving a girl stranded) but he can also be incredibly sweet and vulnerable. This contrast stands out for me from other romantic heroes. We’re given such a bad first impression of him that he really has to claw his way back into the readers’ affections—something I think Sutherland pulls off. Esther’s twin, Eugene, was my favourite—he’s something of a question mark and I think this metal issues are threaded well throughout the story. For me, Eugene was the emotional heart of this story. Esther has great pluck and I love her banter but I found her character to be the least interesting of them all; her dressing up as different people every day and her reasons for that struck me as too similar to Lola from Lola and the Boy Next Door. For such a unique cast of characters in this book, I felt Esther just didn’t stand out enough for me.

But what I absolutely loved about Esther was her narrative point-of-view. I was never fully sure whether the magic in the story was real or part of Esther’s overactive imagination. The fact that even after the last page I still wasn’t sure makes this book stand out for me.

I was worried that the story would become a bit formulaic as Esther and Jonah work through her list of fears, but Sutherland keeps everything rolling along at an enjoyable pace.

A rom-com with a dark, possibly magical edge, A Semi-Definitive List is a banter-filled quest about facing fears. And I encourage you, after reading this book of course, to go face yours. Because—and I’m totally borrowing a line from a favourite rom-com of mine: Chasing Liberty—”the things that scare us are often the most worthwhile.”

♥ ♥ ♥ (3/5 hearts)

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. #PRHpartner

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