Size Doesn’t Matter (197): A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares; I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (197): A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares; I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican DaughterA Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
Published by Putnam Juvenile on September 5, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
four-half-stars

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.

Based on how good Sutherland’s debut was and how much I love this cover, I knew I had to read A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. Thematically, there’s a lot in common with Our Chemical Hearts, but this one’s even better imo.

At first, I found this book excessively, aggressively quirky. The writing was fabulous, and it was a bit funny, but the quirk-level was off-the-charts to a degree even I struggle with. Esther Solar’s family is cursed both to have one great fear that will eventually lead to their deaths. Esther’s father developed agoraphobia and never leaves the basement; they communicate with him using a dumbwaiter. Her brother’s terrified of shadows in the almost dark, so they always leave every light burning, and he takes candles and flashlights everywhere he goes. Esther’s best friend is wraith-like (it took  me a while to figure out if she was an actual ghost—she’s not).

Esther herself profits from her school’s healthy-food policy by being a dessert bandit. She sells box-made brownies and cookies stealthily at the school to earn cash. Because of her discomfort with being seen, Esther wears a costume every day. When she meets her love interest, Jonah (who’s also a former childhood friend), who dreams of being a makeup artist, he pickpockets her, and he always dresses like starring in the “Thrift Shop” music video. It’s just a lot.

However, right around the time I was wondering if I could take it anymore, the book shifts. It’s basically a whole book populated by manic pixies, and it shifts to show the mental illnesses that cause the whole cast to act the way that they do. From being an aggressively quirky lightly fantasy book, A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares becomes a hard-hitting and emotional mental health book. This one totally snuck up on my feelings.

Jonah and Esther end up being really adorable. The way he helps her face her list of possible great fears (girl has massive anxiety, yo) is fabulous, but it’s even better that, while this helps her, she also ends up needing to go into therapy. Jonah’s helpful for her mental health but he doesn’t single-handedly fix her with his love. He also has his own issues he’s dealing with, and he covers his hard life with his charm. Jonah Smallwood breaks my damn heart.

Everything else, all the details, I’ll leave you to discover when you read the book yourself. If you’re a reader who enjoys books focused on mental health, A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares covers a lot: anxiety, depression, addiction, and more.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (197): A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares; I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican DaughterI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Length: 9 hrs, 41 mins
Published by Listening Library on October 17 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
four-half-stars

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican-American home.

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents' house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga's role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it's not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister's story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

Aside from the book cover’s release, I really hadn’t heard much of anything about I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Well, I did get a pitch email about it, but I forgot to respond (what do you mean? I am a very mature and responsible adult blogger person). The audiobook email from PRH came out, and hello yes I will take it I said (possibly aloud bc hey I’m honest). This is one of those books that came out of nowhere and smacked me right in the feels, and, if it’s not already there, you need to put it on your radar.

Fair warning, some readers may have a lot of trouble with Julia’s voice. See, Julia, she’s not a nice girl. She doesn’t like people, she’s judgmental AF, and she really does think she’s better than everyone else. At one point, in a fight with her best friend, she literally responds to a question about why she acts like she’s better than everyone else with “Because I am.” Julia is not here to make friends. There’s very much a character arc in place, but Julia’s still going to be judgmental at the end, only with a bit more awareness about how much more complicated the world really is.

Personally, I loved Julia. I have so much love and empathy for the bitchy heroines. I relate to this girl so hard, especially in her anxiety. This is the first time I’ve encountered an anxious heroine who turns her discomfort into projected anger at the things and people around her, which is absolutely how I lived my life for years with absolutely no idea I was doing that. As the novel progresses, you get more of an idea of why Julia thinks this way. Julia learning she’s been wrong or misunderstood things is relatable AF and oof my HEART. *hugs poor baby Julia tightly*

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a bildungsroman. The frame of the novel is on Julia’s relationship with her sister Olga, who died just before the novel opened—hit by a bus, who was the perfect Mexican daughter, at least on the surface. Julie delves into family secrets, obsessively searching, to prove that Olga was not perfect—everyone does not handle grief the same way—and unearths secrets about her parents along the way too. That transition from childhood to adulthood is, I believe, largely driven not just by increased responsibility but also by the realization that there is so much more to the world and the people around you (particularly your parents) than you ever thought. The structure of the novel feels a bit atypical, but it really pays off.

I am so, so excited that this book hit the NYT bestseller list. Hurrah and huzzah and other exclamations of joy! You, go, heroine with anxiety!

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

One response to “Size Doesn’t Matter (197): A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares; I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter”

  1. I haven’t seen many reviews for Perfect Mexican Daughter but I’ve been wanting to read it for awhile. It sounds like everything I was hoping for, I’ll have to look for it at the library this week! I like reading about anxious heroines even if it doesn’t exactly mirror my own anxiety. Excellent review 🙂
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