Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on September 5th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Magical Realism
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Themes of death, suicide, physical abuse)
From the author of Our Chemical Hearts comes the hilarious, reality-bending tale of two outsiders facing their greatest fears about life and love—one debilitating phobia at a time.
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.
This book starts out super fun and quirky, and to be honest, that’s all I was expecting out of it, but it turned into something more. In fact, there were parts of this book that were downright heartbreaking.
By about halfway through, I realized that there was more than meets the eye with this little gem. It’s not just a book about facing a list of fears (often in humorous and quirky ways). No, this book is about the fears that we shove down so deep that we hide them even from ourselves. It’s about facing the fact that sometimes fear rules us because we let it. And that some fears are well-deserved, but that doesn’t mean we should let them keep us from truly living.
So, I loved pretty much everything about this book, from the family relationships, to the friendships, to the romance, to the way it handled mental illness, to the magical realism (which is constantly questioned throughout the book—you’re kept guessing until almost the very end as to whether or not there is really a curse and whether or not Death actually exists). I also enjoyed the fun ways that Jonah and Esther faced her fears—though I realized just how deep a few of my own phobias truly go (I literally felt like I might have a panic attack when Esther describes being stuck while spelunking—there might have been some tears involved. On my part. While reading a book about someone feeling claustrophobic. I have issues).
If I had any complaint at all, it’s that Sutherland likes to make her characters extra quirky, which sometimes makes them feel a little unreal—but I still managed to relate to them most of the time. I also wasn’t that fond of the fact that one of Jonah’s “quirks” is that he steals things. It was a cute joke that that’s the way that Esther and Jonah meet (or meet again, since they knew each other as children), but then it was implied that he stole some other rather pricey items as well, and I couldn’t help but think that this was not the type of behavior we should view as “endearing.” Still, I forced myself to get past that, and I really did love Jonah, for the most part.
For the first half of the book, I was feeling like I’d give it a solid 4 stars, but the second half was so much more emotionally impactful that I decided to bump it up to 4.5/5 stars. Highly recommend this if you enjoy a book that handles tough topics in both a lighthearted and an emotional way.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Today, Sutherland is sharing her top ten addictions with us. I’m especially intrigued by Buzzfeed Unsolved, which I didn’t know existed before now…
About the Author
Krystal Sutherland was born and raised in Townsville, Australia—an inhospitable land where crocodiles, snakes, and jellyfish are always on the prowl. She grew up living directly across the road from the local library and spent almost every day after school (and weekends, too) having adventures between the pages of books (mainly because it was too dangerous to go outside).
She moved to Sydney for college (and safety), where she cut her writing teeth as the editor of the student magazine at the University of New South Wales. She kept gathering tales as an exchange student in Hong Kong and as a foreign correspondent in Amsterdam. Her first book, Our Chemical Hearts, was released in 2016, and was published in over twenty countries.
Her three greatest fears are heights, dark caves . . . and (perhaps worst of all) frogs.