Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland-- Something Different, But Tried Too Hard

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares

Esther Solar is convinced that her family is cursed to suffer and die from one great fear in their lives.  While most of her family has identified what their fear is (her dad is agoraphobic, her brother is afraid of the dark), Esther has taken great lengths to NOT find out what hers is.  Instead, she has a list of things that COULD be great fears and vows to avoid them.

Then she meets Jonah.  A boy that she shouldn't trust (he left her without a word when they were kids and pickpockets her when they are reunited), but she somehow does.  He challenges her to face all her fears, face death, and break this curse that has been ruling her life for far to long.

This is going to be a tough one to talk about.  I really liked it, but I also didn't 100% "get" it either.

A Definitive List of What I Liked:

  • The voice.  This book starts out with a strong/humorous voice that drew me in right away.  I was intrigued and I felt invested in the characters right from the start.  I kind of felt like I started reading in the middle of the book where I already "knew" the characters and felt comfortable in the story.  That takes a lot of writing talent to make me feel that way.
  • Twins Esther and Eugene had a bond that warmed the heart.  Sometimes it felt a little suffocating (at least for Esther), but it was refreshing to see a sibling relationship in YA where there was genuine love.
  • Esther was real.  She was honest and she was a believer.  She wasn't beautiful, but she radiated beauty.  She was definitely a main character to remember.
  • The romance was a cute slow burn.
  • If you wade through all the excess in this book, at it's heart it has a really awesome message of opening up and not being afraid to trust yourself.

A Definitive List of What I Didn't Like:

  • This book was completely, 1000% over-the-top.  I know a lot of people will appreciate all the quirky characters, but I thought things needed scaled back.  For example, all the characters have multiple major issues and oddities.  ALL.  Not only does Esther have random fears (such as lobsters and moths), but she also dresses in costume everyday.  Not only does Jonah pickpocket, paint, edit videos, and do stage makeup-- he also dresses like a bad 70's sitcom.  Eugene can't be out of the light, their dad can't come up from basement, their mom gambles and sews coins into her clothes and collects "lucky" animals, and none of them will go to the second story of their house (or the doctor which was badly needed).
  • I guess what I'm saying is I felt like this book was being weird for the sake of being weird-- and I prefer my weirdness to feel more organic and not forced in.
  • The blur between mental illness and OTHER.  If it's mental illness, let's treat it like mental illness.  This book was all about confronting fears and finding the personification of death, but what it really should've been about it is the mental health of everyone besides Jonah.  And Jonah needed a different kink of help that he never got.
  • What is never addressed is the fact that the parents and grandparents of this book turned normal kids into basket cases.  I know there is a genetic component to mental health, but I don't think it's right for them to push their kids into it-- which is 100% what I felt like was happening.
  • Social services needed to be involved in all the households in this book.
  • This book just tried SO HARD to be different and cool and I hate try hards.
  • POSSIBLE SPOILER: The ending was basically-- Esther faced her fears, Eugene had a meltdown, and now we're all well again.  These people had COMPLICATED issues, and there's no way they were all going to magically get better (or be on the road to getting better) at the same time.

Looking at this, it seems like my list of things I didn't like is longer than my list of what I did like. Bummer.  I did love the way this story was told and the author's writing style, but it was all just too much for me.  It was a good mix of fun and serious, but it was over-the-top.  If it was scaled back a few steps, I may have been more in love.  But I still recommend to people wanting to read about unique characters and a cool writing style.

OVERALL: I'm torn between loving the writing and the way I became immersed in the story from the first page, and being annoyed at the over-the-top everything in this book.  I think it's a book a lot of people will love and find adorably cute, so I will recommend it to romance and people who can just let their imaginations go.

Date Published: 9/5/2017
How I got this book: Thanks to Penguin Random House for providing me with a copy to read and honestly review
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Add it to your To-Read List!!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Character: Esther Solder
Book: The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

  • Because maybe Esther needs to read about someone else's adventures and journey for a while.


  1. Great review! I agree, the over-the-top, trying too hard characters probably would have bothered me quite a bit, but at least the writing was good!

    1. The writing was fab. I definitely think this was a case of it just wasn't a "me" book.

  2. I had very similar feelings about this to what you just described. I ended up rounding up my rating to 4 stars, but it was VERY close to only being a 3-star-read. I loved Esther's voice, but, like you said, all the weirdness and problems were too much. I guess it could happen IRL that most people around you are struggling with family issues or mental health problems etc. but by throwing so many things into the mix, I felt like the author didn't spend enough time on any of these rather serious topics. The ending was really annoying, with everything being magically solved, or on the way to being solved at the least. But more than that, I was so incredibly disappointed the domestic abuse Jonah had to live with was never properly addressed. ALSO, the supernatural elements (if they were even supernatural, IDEK) were SO CONFUSING, especially at the end. Fantastic review!

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

    1. I DEFINITELY think Jonah's storyline was not resolved in the right way. This book needed toned down IMO and it would've been 100 x's better.

  3. I'm curious about this one, but do feel like I'm drawn more to Krystal's previous novel (which also sounds like a cute albeit quirky romance if I remember right).

    Thanks for the review! Really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one. :)

    1. I'm interested in Our Chemical Romance now too. I was thinking it was a more serious book, but now that I've read this one, I'm pretty sure I was wrong about that!

  4. Obviously this wasn’t an easy book for you to review, but you did it well. I like the idea of the book but the execution doesn’t sound like it works. i think I will have to pass on this because all the issues you had would bug me to. Thanks for the helpful review.

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment!! If you like super-quirky, you might like this. I personally thought it needed some editing out.

  5. Oh dear, I've had an ARC of this for a while but I REALLY hate when books try too hard to be quirky/weird. It makes the characters feel like caricatures and there's a real loss of investment in their stories. I think I'll be passing on this one. Thanks for the honest review!