Skip to main content

Weekly Reviews and Recommendations: Week 32 Part 2

Hello, everyone! Halloween is only a few days away, so I wanted to share my review of A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares, by far one of the spookiest and most stunning books I've read this year. It definitely had great mood setting vibes for my favorite holiday. Are you dressing up this year? What are you going as?  I'm going to be Wonder Woman. The costume is just as fun as the movie, which I really enjoyed. 
Below, I've linked some of my recent articles including Part 1 of this week and last week's reviews, Dazzling Heights and Turtles All The Way Down. Also, if you like Krystal Sutherland or want to hear about her other books, I've linked her other book below, Our Chemical Hearts. It's a great book, though completely different than ASDLOWN. If you're missing John Green type reads after Turtles, it's a good fit. 


A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland (349 pages)
Overview: Esther Solar believes her family is cursed to die from their own greatest fears, so she's decided to make a list of everything remotely scary and avoid them so they could never develop into the great fear. Her brother's is the dark, her father is agoraphobic, her grandfather is terrified of water, and her mother is terribly superstitious. They all are, or, at least seem to be. Esther's solitary existence, bouncing from costume to costume with her twin brother, Eugene and selectively mute friend, Hepesba, by her side suits her just fine until she meets an old elementary school crush at the bus stop, Jonah Smallwood. In the process of pick-pocketing her, he comes into possession of Esther's list of fifty fears, and from there, he decides that they will conquer each one. Overall: 4.5

General Thoughts: This book really surprised me. The title alone drew me in enough to put it as #1 on my must read list, but I had no idea that the story would be this deep. With a strong focus and unexpected presentation of mental illness, this book was deep and thought provoking in unexpected ways and well worth the read. The complexity of the book made it a slower read just by how much there was to digest, but a beautiful one too.

Characters: 5 Esther dresses in a different costume every day from which she draws strength by taking on the persona. I thought this was an interesting first clue about our main character, especially because it's said to have arisen after she suffered serious bullying. It's a shield and a coping mechanism for her anxiety which she suffers greatly from in ways far beyond the trivial fears she's built her wall with.
Her brother Eugene who is terrified of the light and her parents, each too consumed by their own fears to be anything remotely like parents, present interesting reflection points for Esther as well. Eugene, as the book progressed grew to become my favorite character. Then her friends, Heph, who suffers from crippling social anxiety, and Jonah who seems bright and like a spark of light as he tries to hide his abusive home, present an interesting parallel as well. Everyone in the book has their own trauma to face in a way that they can't be weighted against one another or compared, and is, in a way, what makes the book both so interesting and so real.

Plot: 4 For the most part, I found the plot complex and interesting. While, as with nearly every book, there were parts that dragged, developing and discovering these people and their relationships with one another made the book impossible to put down. The only part I didn't really love was the final chapter. While I don't want to spoil the book, the ending seemed to be tacked on somewhat unrealistically to give an overly cheerful note to the end which, in some ways diminished from the beautiful storm leading up to that point. A more grounded and reservedly hopeful finale chapter might have better suited this serious and thought provoking story.

Writing: 5 Sutherland's second novel is so different from her first that it hardly seems like the same person wrote it, which, in a way, I love. She's delivered two quality stories with quality righting while also able to delve deeply into the voice and tone that each book required. I was knocked over by the intensity and complexity of this story bringing in elements of family, family relationships, histories, relationships, and friendships in one amazing novel. While at the start, I wasn't sure how serious this deeply superstitious family was and how much to buy into the beliefs and curses, as Sutherland dived further in, the book flourished into one of the most spectacular, fresh, and honest looks at people who suffered from mental illness in ways so deep, some failed to see it in themselves. My words really can't do justice to the questioning, thought provoking, mural building quality of this book.

Links of Interest:
Week 32 Part 1: Nothing: http://www.readingwritingandme.com/2017/10/weekly-reviews-and-recommendations-week_26.html
Week 31 Part 1: Turtles All The Way Down: http://www.readingwritingandme.com/2017/10/weekly-reviews-and-recommendations-week_18.html
Week 31 Part 2: Dazzling Heights: http://www.readingwritingandme.com/2017/10/weekly-reviews-and-recommendations-week_22.html
Our Chemical Hearts: http://www.readingwritingandme.com/2017/10/weekly-reviews-and-recommendations-week_11.html

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends and check out our other articles ranging from book reviews to poetry and short stories to editorials. To get updates about new posts and extras, please follow us on Instagram (@readingwritingandme), Twitter (@readwriteandme), and Facebook or sign up for email alerts by clicking the subscribe button at the top of the sight. Also, please leave comments or email us (readingwritingandme@gmail.com) with your thoughts or review requests. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

YA You Need To Read: April 2021

It's already April! School has been super super hectic, and I'm starting my old job as a bookseller again, so I haven't had much time for reading lately (ironic, I know), but I did want to talk about some books coming out in April that I can't wait to read (one day) that might inspire you to pick them up. I particularly can't wait for My Epic Spring Break Up! It's been on my list for a while now (I mean, look at that cover), but I also found some new books that hadn't been on my radar while browsing around the internet that I wanted to bring to your attention.  Let me know in the comments what April books you can't wait for!  Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Kahn  April 6th Zara has lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for a while. She's always dealt with the Islamophobia that's rampant in her high school, but when the star football player gets suspended, Zara becomes the target of a racist attack by the rest of the team that puts her and her family'

Once Upon a Quinceañera

Once Upon a Quinceañera   by Monica Gomez-Hera Overview: Carmen hasn't graduated high school, even though it's the summer after senior year. When her senior project fell through, Carmen has to scramble to complete the project over the summer. That means no college (not that she applied) and no future plans beyond becoming a Dream (floating around in a Belle costume at children's parties) with her best friend Waverley. So maybe it's not the summer Carmen wanted, but it's fine. At least until her ex-boyfriend who ruined everything, Mauro, also shows up on the team and then they get assigned to work her nemesis and younger cousin's quinceañera, which becomes the big event of the summer. Nothing ever quite goes to plan for Carmen, does it? Overall: 4 Characters: 4 I enjoyed hanging out with Carmen for a while. She's super witty and cynical in a way that I appreciate. I also loved reading about a character who's just out of high school and doesn't have a

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi: YA Book Review

  Yolk  by Mary H.K. Choi Overview: Jayne is in fashion school in NYC. Well, she's enrolled. It's debatable how often she actually attends. June has a fancy job in finance, or that's what everyone thinks. But when June gets cancer, the estranged sisters are pulled together because June needs Jayne's identity to get treatment. By pretending to be her sister to get the life-saving procedure, June is forced to come clean and pull Jayne back into her orbit. Though their relationship stays rocky, they're suddenly glued together, forced to admit that their respective glamorous lives are actually filled with roaches and trauma and missteps. Overall: 5+++ This book made me happy cry (that's never happened while reading) and sad cry. Characters: 5 The book is told from Jayne's perspective in an extremely close first person. This book has plot. Things happen in the way that life happens, but it's mostly just characters getting split open and probed for all their w

Olivia Rodrigo'a SOUR As YA Books: Track By Track

This list turned out to be much harder to make than I anticipated when I came up with the idea last week. I set out to match songs to SOUR because what goes better with an album written by a 17/18 year old than YA books, but it turns out that YA books are just too hopeful for this album. Unlike many of these songs, I couldn't find books where the characters ended the book totally despondent and broken up. It took a bit of brainstorming, but I think I found a book to match the essence of each SOUR track. Le me know in the comments which songs on SOUR are your favorite. Mine are "brutal", "favorite crime", "deja vu", and "jealousy, jealousy".  1. "brutal" : War and Speech   by Don Zolidis War and Speech just radiates the same badass, discontented with teenage life energy as "brutal". This was the first book that popped into my mind when I thought about making this post. Just look at the cover. Sydney's life has been fa

Halsey's I Would Leave Me If I Could Poetry Review

  I Would Leave Me If I Could  by Halsey  I've started this review a couple times and scrapped all of them. I've written hundreds of reviews before, and this is the first time I have absolutely no clue how to review a book. It's not just because it's poetry. And it's not because I don't have thoughts on every single poem. I've read the book twice and scrubbed a million notes around her words and highlighted every poem on my second read through. I have so many favorites, and my heart feels like it's going to burst after finishing each poem. Halsey exceeded every expectation I had set to the high bar of her music. I almost feel like this book is too good for my review to remotely do it justice, so I don't even know where to begin.  This book is extremely vulnerable. Halsey has never held back on telling the ugly truth in her lyrics, but the poetry takes it so much farther. She has space to tell the entire story, fewer constraints than what will fit in

Writing Morally Gray Characters: A Guest Post by Laurie Devore, Author of A Better Bad Idea

Laurie Devore is stopping by the blog today to talk about her new book from Imprint, A Better Bad Idea , which is out now! This mystery/thriller/romance fusion is Laurie's third book, and it's a new twist on her usual contemporary YA stories. For this guest post, Laurie talks about crafting morally gray characters that your readers will still feel attached to and cheer on. Here's her best writing tips:  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of what people will do when they’re pushed to their brink. While my new novel, A BETTER BAD IDEA, may seem like a departure in some ways from my previous novels, I actually think their DNA is quite similar. The stakes are higher, but as ever, this book is about girls making unimaginable choices because of their circumstances, whether self-inflicted or not.   I’m constantly thinking about what it means to write morally gray characters, and I think the main takeaway from me is that I’m just much more interested in what people do and w

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: NA Book Review

  One Last Stop  by Casey McQuiston Get Your Copy! Overview: August moved to New York for yet another fresh start and hopefully to finish out college (finally). In her attempt to find a place, she stumbles into an apartment full of interesting people who will quickly become her best friends. They fold her seamlessly into their lives. And then, on the subway, August meets a girl who will change her life forever. As time goes on, August finds out that Subway Girl, or Jane, is stuck on the Q metro line by some kind of energetic force. With the Q shutting down for maintenance by the end of the summer, August and her friends have to band together to get Jane unstuck, even if that means bouncing her back to 1977 where she came from and never seeing her again. Overall: 4 Characters: 5 I genuinely loved everyone in this book, and they gave me such warm, fuzzy, and hopeful feelings. The book would be New Adult if that was a category that publishing actually used (please can we make this more of

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

  Swimming Lessons  by Lili Reinhart  Overall: 5 This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons  so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili.  I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons . I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions tha

Is YA For Me?

I've seen a lot of different conversations taking place on Twitter that all come back to a central theme. The YA space is controlled by adults. For the most part, they are the ones with the purchasing power, they have jobs in the industry, they are in a better position to amplify their voices about how they feel about different books and the category as a whole. I've been thinking about these conversations as a whole, and it really does come back to the intended audience not owning the space and what that means for the category and the conversations around it. As a teen who's heavily involved in the YA community, I sometimes feel awkward reading all the different, slightly varied takes from adults. Some make blanket statements for themselves and some work with teens and try to be a conduit to add them to the conversation. Very rarely do I come across a real teen who gets an amplified voice in the conversation (definitely go check out Vicky Who Reads on Twitter because,

Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn: YA Book Review

  Never Saw You Coming  by Erin Hahn  Preorder - Out September 7th- Preorder Campaign  From Nicola's Books Overview: Meg is done with living by her parents' rules. Or parent? Nothing makes sense after she finds out that the dad she's known all of her life actually isn't her biological dad, and her biological dad is actually dead. But his grandmother and his brother are living in the UP, and Meg intends to meet them before it's too late. With high school behind her, Meg makes the leap of faith towards a tiny town she's never been to. She quickly folds herself into the community, finding her blood family and her found family, while also facing the stigmas and internalized sexism she's learned through her mom and her church over the years. This is the ultimate coming of age story. Overall: 5+++ Characters: 5 Meg and Micah, the two POV characters are now also my two favorite people. In the companion novel of sorts, More Than Maybe , we meet Meg as Vada's hom