Review: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland + a Discussion on Mental Health Depiction in Fiction

Summary: Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather met Death, her entire family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime—a fear that will eventually lead each and every one of them to their graves. Esther’s managed to escape the curse…so far. She doesn’t yet have a great fear because she avoids pretty much everything.

Esther thinks she has it all figured out, until she’s reunited with an old elementary school classmate—and first crush—Jonah Smallwood. The encounter is the beginning of an unexpected friendship between the two, one that sends the pair on a journey of self-discovery as they try to break the curse that’s consumed Esther’s family. Together they face their greatest fears, one debilitating phobia at a time, only to discover the one fear they hadn’t counted on: love.

Genre: young adult, contemporary
Rating: ★★★★

Worst Nightmares will not be a book for everyone. It’s quirky, uncomfortable (there was one scene that flared up some anxiety in me), and extremely heavy. This book covers mental health, death, illness, abusive homes, and so much more. And yet, it still finds a way to be charming in its own right, with scenes that made me smile and a romantic plot that appeases a certain crowd. And of course, the overall message will absolutely rip your heart right out of your chest. This was an emotional rollercoaster, and I felt my heart break repeatedly for these characters.

**this review will contain MAJOR SPOILERS**

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Mini Reviews + Some Minor Changes

My main purpose for creating this book blog was to be able to review what I read with an emphasis on the books I own. I wanted to hold myself accountable for constantly buying a mountain of books, and I missed writing about the books I read. So far I think it’s going well for me; I love being able to rant and rave about stories I love or hate. I don’t necessarily have a schedule to my posts, and right now I’m happy with that because I don’t want any stress about this blog, so I don’t give myself any. I’m sure that’ll change at some point though, considering I live to stress myself out.

That’s not to say I don’t sometimes struggle with my book blog. Sometimes I read a book and don’t feel like I have enough to talk about, so I never review it and then forget about it (looking at some of my read books from February, RIP). Sometimes I read a lot of comics or ebooks and feel that I don’t need to give them the same attention that I give books from my physical tbr pile.

I debated doing a monthly wrap-up post, but some months I review every single book I read so it seems pointless. Maybe I’ll do a quarterly post of mini reviews just to maintain reviewing everything I read. I haven’t figured out all the weird kinks to having a blog yet, but I’ll smooth it out eventually. For now, I figured I would write mini reviews about some of the books I’ve read throughout the year that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet. All of them are stories I enjoyed but felt weren’t necessarily deserving of an entire review post. I can sum up everything I felt about them in a few sentences, and they’ll include individual ratings.

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Review: The Gatekeepers by Jen Lancaster

Summary: Anyone passing through North Shore, IL, would think this was the most picture-perfect place ever, with all the lakefront mansions and manicured hedges and iron gates. No one talks about the fact that the brilliant, talented kids in this town have a terrible history of throwing themselves in front of trains, and that there’s rampant opioid abuse that often leads to heroin usage.

Meet Simone, the bohemian transfer student from London, who is thrust into the strange new reality of the American high school; Mallory, the hyper-competitive queen bee; and Stephen, the first generation genius who struggles with crippling self-doubt. Each one is shocked when lovable football player Braden takes his own life and the tragedy becomes a suicide cluster. With so many students facing their own demons, can they find a way to save each other—as well as themselves?

Genre: young adult, contemporary
Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Gatekeepers is loosely based off Lake Forest High School in Illinois, where students in an extremely wealthy town with an over-the-top, ritzy school were suddenly committing suicide by jumping in front of oncoming trains. This is a tragic, fascinating case, and I actually found myself spiraling deeper into news articles (Chicago Magazine has a wonderful write-up) and researching the origins of Gatekeepers, and what I’ve decided is this is an important story to talk about. I just don’t know that it should have been written by this author.

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Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Summary: As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.

Genre: contemporary, mystery, young adult
Rating: 4/5 stars

Boulley’s debut novel is a compelling deep dive into Native American culture that shows how serious and dangerous drug use is, as it makes shockwaves through a Native reservation. I found myself devouring this book despite how big it was, and I was itching to get back to it to dive deeper into Daunis’s world.

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ARC Review: Golden Boys Beware by Hannah Capin

Summary: Elle and her friends Mads, Jenny, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Elle’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Elle as their next target. They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Elle transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly. Golden Boys Beware is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough.

Genre: young adult, contemporary, retellings
Rating: 5/5 stars

Golden Boys Beware is a modern, refreshing retelling on Macbeth that will make you want to cut all your hair off (think Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction) and kill a man. This book oozes sweet vengeance in such a badass way that, even though you know what Elle is doing is terrible, you still can’t help rooting for her to the very end. She’s a spitfire, a hellion, a goddamn sorceress, and watching her weave her way through these boys’ lives is utterly fascinating.

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