Tag Archives: Mental Health

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal Sutherland

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal SutherlandTitle: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
Publishing Info: September 5, 2017 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: September 21, 2017

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. Take Esther’s father, for instance: He’s an agoraphobe who hasn’t left the basement in six years. Then there’s her twin brother, Eugene, whose fear of the dark goes far beyond the things that go bump in the night. And her mother, Rosemary, is absolutely terrified of bad luck.

As for Esther, she’s managed to escape the curse…so far. She doesn’t yet have a great fear because she avoids pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, crowds—anything that might trigger a phobia is off-limits and is meticulously recorded in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.

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 leaves her stranded at a bus stop and swindled out of her phone, all her cash, a Fruit Roll-Up she’d been saving, and her list—not to mention her dignity. But the theft is also 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.

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A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LIST OF WORST NIGHTMARES wasn’t what I was expecting, and then it was, and then it wasn’t — all in a good way. I thought this would be heavy on the magical realism based on the synopsis and then it turned more realistic fiction for a while, and came back as a blend of both. There was a lot of care taken when writing this book and it really shows through each of the characters and their own personal situations. I was really impressed with it!

The characters of this book were so wonderful and real and had such amazing personalities. Every single one has their own thing they’re dealing with and Esther blames this on the family curse, but there’s a lot more beneath the surface than she understands and more importantly, is willing to face. It was interesting to see both sides of that concept — from the magical realism/curse side and from the realistic side that really tackled mental health head on. It was addressed so well and I felt like it was a very realistic representation. The magic is both real and also a coping mechanism/avoidance method and I really enjoyed the blend between the real and the imaginary. The reader is left wondering how much is really magic and that’s something I love about magical realism when it’s done well!

This is also one of those realistic fiction novels that’s great for those who aren’t normally contemporary romance readers. The family is quirky and fun to read, the plot of the book involves a lot of fun instances where characters face their fears (some of them silly), and there are some really great representations of mental health on many levels. I liked that there was an actual plot with an end goal of conquering fears and the way they tackled each one was fun and also beautiful.

The characters really brought this book to life, every single one unique and beautiful. I loved getting to know this family and the people who supported them. I laughed, I cried, I was afraid, and I was happy. This book took me through so many emotions and I’m so glad I read it!
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Kept Me Hooked On: Quirky Families. It takes a really good author to write a quirky family without having them be goofy or over-the-top. This family had their quirks but they were fun to get to know and it wasn’t in a crazy way. Everything just felt right.
Left Me Wanting More: Pages! I really, really enjoyed this book. I can’t think of anything I was missing! I would just want to keep reading more but I’m also glad that it was a stand-alone and wrapped up the way that it did.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

No matter which genres you enjoy, this is such a lovely book. I would definitely recommend it!

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When We Collided – Emery Lord

When We Collided – Emery LordTitle: When We Collided by Emery Lord
Publishing Info: April 5, 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Genres: Young Adult, Psych/Mental Health, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: April 10, 2016
Related Posts: Open Road Summer, The Start of Me and You

Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.
Vivi and Jonah couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi's zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there's something important Vivi hasn't told him.

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Emery Lord is an auto-buy author for me. I fell in love with her debut, OPEN ROAD SUMMER, and every book I read from her is a wonderful and thoughtful experience full of growth, friendship, and a little bit of romance. After finishing WHEN WE COLLIDED, one of the things that I’m really starting to appreciate is how incredibly individual each book feels from is predecessor. Emery Lord’s writing is deep and powerful but still allows each character to let their silly side show and really tells a very realistic story without getting caught up in the dramatics that some young adult books tend to overemphasize. Each book has had a very different story to tell and WHEN WE COLLIDED may be the most powerful one yet.

WHEN WE COLLIDED is the story of Vivi and Jonah but it’s also a story for anyone who’s dealt with grief, depression, mental illness, or really any hard times in their life. The reader learns that Vivi has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that Jonah’s father has recently passed away and his family is still grieving. WHEN WE COLLIDED chronicles the journey of these two characters throughout one summer as they crash into each other’s lives when they’re both at their very bottom and how they’re able to help each other grow and heal. The book is incredibly powerful. There’s so much emotion as Vivi and Jonah sift through their struggles individually and how once they start to open up, they’re really able to help and support each other by sharing their own personal hurdles.

What I loved the most about WHEN WE COLLIDED was how realistic everything truly felt. Sometimes I have a hard time connecting to big families like Jonah’s (especially young children for some reason) but just like Vivi, I easily fell in love with each and every one of them. Emery Lord is able to bring even minor characters into full color and share their dazzling personalities with the reader. I also really appreciated all of the personal experience as well as research that went into Vivi’s character. I haven’t personally seen the effects of bipolar disorder in any of my friends or family members (that I know of) but I felt like this was an incredibly realistic and thorough view of what someone with this disorder might be going through. Experiencing Vivi’s emotional highs and escalation as she went through her manic period was truly an emotional roller coaster and as an observer, I was incredibly nervous for her throughout the book. I was afraid of what might happen when that mania finally came back down and feared for when depression might hit. Vivi has a naturally spirited and unique personality so there was also this blur and question of whether her actions were simply because she was such a sizzling personality or whether some of her decisions were affected by her disorder.

I adored the relationship between Vivi and Jonah. It was such a sweet romance full of highs and lows and it was exactly what these two characters needed. Jonah needed someone who would break down the door and push themself into his life in order to really accept help and start to talk about what his family was going through. She opened Jonah up to acting a little silly sometimes and allowing himself to really act his age when there was so much weighing on his shoulders. Vivi needed someone a little grounded to reel her back in at times but still love her for exactly who she was. Jonah was able to offer her a peek into a big family and the loss of a loving father and these two really learned a lot from each other that they never set out to find.

I could really go on gushing about WHEN WE COLLIDED but it’s a book that really must be experienced. It was so incredibly well-written and I love how it shares some similar elements of Emery Lord’s previous books (strong female characters, great friendships, tons of growth) and yet it truly stands on its own. It was such an emotional ride for me and one that I will absolutely continue to recommend. If you haven’t read any of Emery Lord’s books yet, start anywhere but make sure you do read WHEN WE COLLIDED as soon as possible!
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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

when we collided goodreads

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Vivi // Character Obsessions: Costume design, staying unique, fun, adventure.
Vivi was such a wonderfully layered character. She has this struggle with bipolar disorder but she’s so spirited to begin with that at times it’s hard to tell where this disorder creeps in but then you realize that so much of Vivi is just that adventurous, free, and bubbly. I loved her unique personality and you will never find a dull moment with Vivi. She really brought Jonah out of his shell and truly loved who she was.
Jonah // Character Obsessions: Family, responsibility, cooking, his father.
I adored Jonah’s love of cooking (some of these things seriously made me hungry!) and how much I fell in love with his big family. He has the burden of being one of the older siblings and really taking care of the littles as well as his mom as she continues to struggle with the loss of her husband. The whole family is still grieving and I admired Jonah’s strength (although I’m sure it didn’t feel like strength to him) as he attempted to piece his family back together again.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mental health awareness. I thought the authenticity of Vivi’s bipolar disorder was so accurate. I read the author’s note at the end of the book so I know she put a lot of personal experience into creating this character but also really did a ton of research as well to represent it as well as she possibly could.
Left Me Wanting More: Fairy tale endings. Obviously I wish for a fairy tale ending where everyone rides off into the sunset but actually… I’m glad that it wasn’t all sunshine and butterflies in the end. Things get real and the ending is realistic and not just smacking a happy conclusion on there just for feels. I loved that I was left with some great feelings but it wasn’t overly sappy.

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

You NEED to read Emery Lord’s books if you haven’t yet. Every single one is truly unique and WHEN WE COLLIDED is such a powerful story.

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