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.
Each member of 17-year-old Esther Solar's family is consumed by a different fear. Terrified to leave the house, her father has holed himself up in the basement for six years. Her mother, a believer in ghosts and bad luck, has become addicted to gambling. And due to Esther's twin brother's intense fear of the dark, their house is lit 24/7. Esther believes that her family's propensity for these phobias stems from a curse bestowed on her grandfather years ago, and she dreads discovering a latent terror that will overtake her. Then Jonah, an elementary school acquaintance turned pickpocket, offers to help Esther confront and conquer 50 fears on a list she has assembled. In a darkly ironic tale about an offbeat dysfunctional family, Sutherland (Our Chemical Hearts) gives mixed messages about fate, death, and mental disorders; the supernatural elements of the novel feel incongruous beside Esther's growing understanding of psychological illnesses and her tendency to hide her true self from the world. Though some characters undergo various forms of salvation, the book's resolution is unsettling. Ages 14 up.