Title: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares
Author: Krystal Suthderland
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: 5th September 2017
When I took A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares out of the library I was expecting a rather trashy, stereotypical teen book, with underdeveloped, 2-D characters and a cliché plot, as yet again I was judging a book by it’s cover (and blurb, but how else am I meant to judge them?) however, as you can probably expect from where this sentence is going, that’s not what I got.
The book is written by Krystal Suthderland, who also wrote My Chemical Hearts. That, as well as the chiché sounding blurb, made me pick it up thinking it would be an easy read, but it was a lot more emotionally investing than that.
Unlike a lot of other novels, ASDLOWN is driven by character development, rather than by plot, at least in my opinion. Whilst the book does have plot, I wouldn’t say that it’s the strongest in terms of narrative and originality, but it’s the characters themselves that drives you to continue reading. What’s also pretty great is how there’s character development for pretty much all of them, rather than just the protagonist and her love interest, which gives you the chance to really understand the characters and where they’re coming from. However, there’s always going to be a downside, and it’s that when those sad parts of the novel come around you will be affected, but that’s probably one of the better downsides to have.
The main theme of the book is mental health and most of the characters suffer from a mental health problem of some kind. The way that mental health is particularly interesting as the main character, Esther, sees them as “curses”, with the people around her having agreeing and opposing opinions on this view. The characters are all very diverse and so are the illnesses they face, and what I like, possibly the most, is the change in their relationship with their illnesses, but I won’t spoil that for you, don’t worry.
I must add, however, that the book contains the depiction and discussion of self harm and suicide, in addition to the thoughts that come alongside it. As I don’t want anyone who is triggered by them to read it unknowingly because everyone should be able to find joy in reading, rather than it causing them distress.
The family dynamics in the book are also intriguing and atypical. Both Esther and Jonah’s family are mostly certainly not picture perfect but they make do with the situation their given. What is also beautiful is Esther’s relationship with Eugene, her twin, as although they’re different they have a really precious bond and despite there various events which challenge it, she continues to love him unconditionally and willing to sacrifice a lot for him as well.
Now, in regards to the ending, ASDLOWN ends on a questioning note, but not a cliffhanger. It’s the kind of ending where the author leaves it open so they could write a sequel but you know that they won’t. In a way it’s nice though, you get to decide how you think the characters will continue their lives within the given closure the author provides. The main characters are still in high school as well, so the ending type makes sense in a way, as nothing is really defined that much at such a young age.
All in all, A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares is a beautiful but poignant story. It may not be revolutionary in terms of plot and story-line but if you’re looking for characters to emotionally invest in or a book which discusses mental illness, then I’d definitely recommend it.
Rating : 3/5
Rating system: 1 = bad, 2 = okay/decent, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = wow
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