Monday, January 9, 2023

The List of Unspeakable Fears by J. Kasper Kramer - NO

The List of Unspeakable Fears by J. Kasper Kramer, 273 pgs. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021. $18.

Language: PG (4 swears; no ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (mention of death by disease and accident)



Everything scares Essie O’Neill. She keeps a list of her unspeakable fears and adds to it continuously. When her mother remarries and they move out to North Brother Island, her terror only increases as she is faced with a new step father, a typhoid epidemic, and haunted dreams.

While it is true that anxiety presents differently for everyone and can appear irrational to those not experiencing it, the way in which the author chooses to depict the anxiety of Essie is inauthentic and exasperating. Essie’s list of “unspeakable fears” is more a collection of things she refuses to take the time to understand or finds mildly inconvenient. Her character spends most of the book moving between hysteria and sullen tantrums while hurling baseless accusations and blatant xenophobic remarks. Add to this, supernatural occurrences fade in and out at odd times, but never solidify in a way that make them a true part of the plot, leading the reader to question why they were even included. 


1 comment:

Test said...

You expressed this very well. On some level, we need to be able to sympathize with characters.