If you know anything about us, you know that we love to dress up.  We love spooky stories. We love Wicked Things.  We probably want to be witches.
Halloween Witch
So, Penguin didn’t have twist our arms much to convince us to be on their Wicked Reads campaign this Halloween.  Today, I’m here to tell you a little something about wicked read involving curses, a little purple tome with a skeleton on the cover: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares.  In fact, I’m here to give you a GIF review of Krystal Sutherland’s novel, and stick around until the end because you can win a HUGE STACK of Penguin Teen’s Wicked Reads in their GIVEAWAY!  So what are you waiting for?  JUMP!




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.



Krystal Sutherland is the author of Our Chemical Hearts. She was born and raised in Townsville, Australia, a place that has never experienced winter. Since then she’s lived in Sydney, where she edited her university’s student magazine; Amsterdam, where she worked as a foreign correspondent; and Hong Kong. Krystal has also interned at Bloomsbury Publishing and was shortlisted for the Queensland Young Writers Award. She has no pets and no children, but is fond of naming inanimate objects: in the Netherlands she owned a Dutch bicycle called Kim Kardashian, and a small, inflatable velociraptor called Herbert.



Overall:  Esther has a problem. Her family is cursed. They’re cursed to have one great fear.  Unfortunately for Esther, her great fear hasn’t fully manifested itself, although she keeps a running list of things she’s afraid of:  A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares.

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Enter Jonah Smallwood, Esther’s former childhood friend and current grifter.

The Grifters


Their reunion is short-lived due to Jonah’s breakdown, sticky fingers and his subsequent quick exit.

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When Esther discovers Jonah’s betrayal of her trust at the bus stop, she decides to confront him and this is where the tightly held control of her cursed world becomes unraveled in the most unexpected and magical of ways. Jonah doesn’t just hand back the list. To Esther’s horror, he brings it to life.  Specifically, to her life. Her own worst nightmare.


I will use this moment to mention that between Esther’s costumes and Jonah’s fly 70’s apparel, these kids are practically teen professional thrift shop pickers. They’re definitely the most stylish YA characters since Aaron Warner.

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So Esther and Jonah begin an adventure and their worlds begin to mix in unexpected and mysterious and scary ways.  This is where Krystal creates her magic–the characters.



Esther is  friends with a ghost and a brother who’s afraid of the dark. Her father is agoraphobic and won’t come out of the basement and her mother, well, she’s busy trying to keep the curse away from the family.  Every character is caught up in their own personal chaos. But what Krystal excels at is in bringing her characters together and creating natural interactions ranging from hysterical to heart-breaking. Her dialogue and pacing are perfect and natural. This book progresses and sucks you right into ALL the main characters.  You are emotionally vested in all of them and what they do and I’m still not sure how she managed to balance that emotional hold with the plethora of sarcasm dripping from her pages.



And this is what happens to me every time I love a book. I can tell you some of the qualities that I love, but I run out ways to objectively tell you that I love this book.  So, I will conclude the Overall portion of my GIF review with how this book left me feeling.



Judge a Book by its Cover:  To me, this was one of those covers that changes once you read the book.

My reaction to the cover BEFORE reading the book:


My reaction AFTER reading the book:



Me Talk Pretty:  I whittled down my favorite quotes earlier this summer and dedicated an entire post to them,  so please follow the link for an exhaustive list of Sutherland’s beautiful prose.



Audiobook Narration:  I imagine Tara Sands dressed as Wednesday Addams while reading A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares as Esther Solar.

Wednesday Addams



Body Count:  Considering this is a book about family curses killing you, this may or may not be a factor. No spoilers, though.

Body Count


Don’t Believe the Hype:  This is, by far, one of my favorite reads of 2017 and I am constantly surprised when people tell me they haven’t heard of it. I WILL SHOUT ITS PRAISES FROM THE ROOFTOPS FOREVER!!!



Open tab/Last call: Definitely leaving the tab open.  In fact, I’m going to put on my best Elvira costume and wait for Krystal to show up so we can have a witchy brew together.






Do you see the stack of nine books below?  Well you can win them ALL, including A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. Just click this LINK to enter to win!

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