Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Book Review - A Semi Definitive List Of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this one. Really loved it.

A Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares centres on the Solar family, who are believed to be cursed by Death himself to die from their ultimate fear or phobia. Esther's grandfather is terrified of water, Eugene her twin brother is scared of the night. Her father is agrophobic and her mother is scared of bad luck. Esther, not knowing her fear, makes a list of everything that she's scared of, in the hope that she can avoid them all and never have to face her ultimate fear. However, a chance meeting (and mugging) by an old friend, Jonah, changes the course of her path forever, and the chance to break the curse.

On a base level this is a story about facing your fears, with an interwoven story about Death and an extremely dysfunctional family. However, on a deeper level it's so much more than this. It's funny (there's a brain damaged kitten named Fleyonce Knowles and a rooster called Frank who enjoys breakfast freak outs on the kitchen table) and heartwarming. I loved Esther and her character development. We see her go from someone who is unable to live her life, hiding behind fancy dress costumes so she can go unnoticed by everyone into something more. Something strong and powerful, a sort of role model to all those who have fears.

Esther's love for her family really shines through - especially Eugene. There are moments throughout that are just so heartbreaking, yet their bond is lovely to behold. They are always there for each other, looking out for each other (when they can) yet they can't seem to get over their own problems in order to fully appreciate each other and what they've got. Esther's relationship with Jonah is also complicated and messy and problematic. There's a real sense of development between the two as the story progresses, which was nice to see, as it was more than just instantaneous love.

The way the author deals with mental health, depression and anxiety through the novel is wonderful. It's dealt with sensitively, yet thoughtfully and we are made to realise that mental health is deeply complex and difficult to define and understand. The ending is bittersweet, yet perfectly sums up life.

I also really loved the background story involving Esther's grandfather and Death. I'm not normally a fan of dipping in and out of side stories, but this was done very eloquently, and in a way that flowed well with the story. Meeting in Vietnam, and following Esther's grandfather as he's assigned a police case into two missing girls, there was enough intrigue and magic and mystery to keep me wanting to go back for more. I wanted to see how the relationship between the two developed, and exactly why Death had cursed the family.

The only reason this isn't four stars is because at the beginning I was slightly confused by the concept of Eugene 'slipping' out of existence. It's as though the randomly vanishes into thin air at certain moments, and this isn't really elaborated on. I wasn't sure if it was some kind of metaphor or not.

That said, this is easily one of the best books I've read this year, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

 - 4 stars

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