In some ways, fear can keep you safe, but for the Solar family, fear is what keeps them from fully living.
When Esther Solar meets Jonah Smallwood at a bus stop, he doesn’t recognize her at first. They were 8 the last time they saw each other. This was before Esther’s brother, Eugene, became pathologically frightened of the dark, before her father retreated to the basement, and before her mother became addicted to gambling and superstition. Together, the white girl and the black boy confront Esther’s list of fears one by one in the hopes of attracting Death, otherwise known as Jack Horowitz, and releasing her family from the curse she believes dooms her family to death by fear. What Esther doesn’t know is that Jonah struggles with his own kind of curse. It’s a bewitching book about the love shared with family, damaged and all, and the multitude of ways in which mental illness manifests in daily life. Sutherland’s fertile imagination makes this book a deep dive into the intricacies of family, friends, and personal history. The characters are fully distinct and genuine, and the dips into a historical narrative lend an essential veritas to the story. By combining the harsh experience of severe mental illness with a light magical touch, the author creates a space for readers to gain new perspective on what it's like to live with real demons. Resources on mental illness and an urgent exhortation that there's no shame in seeking help follow.
A fresh and compelling look at mental illness. (Fiction. 14-18)