Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen
Release Date: February 21, 2017
*ARC provided by Random House Children’s via Netgalley for an honest review*
I really didn’t remember much about this book before I went into. So, in essence, I started this book not knowing the plot, the main characters, or anything – other than it had a catchy title and a pretty cool cover. My love of fair isle stuff is totally blamed on Frozen from that. Anyway, I was very surprised to find out what this book was about and how much I enjoyed it.
Once upon a time…
Beware: Life ahead.
Sixteen-year-old Petula de Wilde is anything but wild. A former crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula shut herself off from the world after a family tragedy. She sees danger in all the ordinary things, like crossing the street, a bug bite, or a germy handshake. She knows: life is out to get you.
The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class with a small group of fellow misfits. Then a new boy, Jacob, appears at school and in her therapy group. He seems so normal and confident, though he has a prosthetic arm; and soon he teams up with Petula on a hilarious project, gradually inspiring her to let go of some of her fears. But as the two grow closer, a hidden truth behind why he’s in the group could derail them, unless Petula takes a huge risk. . .
This book was such a fast read – I literally binge read it in a matter of three hours. It was intense and enthralling. I couldn’t stop reading this, and it had a fast pace that was so addicting to read. I loved that about it, and I definitely recommend it for anyone that is looking for a quick, contemporary read.
I also loved Petula. I thought she was a fantastic main character. As I always do in my reviews regarding books discussing mental illness, I haven’t experienced anxiety to this level so I can’t accurately tell if this was an accurate depiction or not. I did read a few reviews where it did say that it could have been a bit overdramatic, and while I could definitely see this in a few spots, I did see where there could be a very realistic element. She was quirky, different, and fun as a MC. Again, I can’t say just how realistic her depiction was, but I did like her as a main character.
I also LOVED her group of friends/support group. There was such a diverse collection of kids, and I thought each of them was so interesting. The closure that they were given was beautifully done, and I came to enjoy and care about each of them. I loved the inclusion of them, and I think this story would have really suffered if they didn’t have this ragtag team of kids.
The plot was interesting in the way that there really wasn’t one. Like, I really can’t tell you what it was supposed to be – apparently I’ve found that “character-driven” book tags are always asking about. But I really didn’t care as much with this book because each of the character was different, cool, and entertaining. They completely drew me into their lives, and I didn’t care so much if there was a linear timeline.
The issue I had was with the romance. This is probably going to be a bit of a conflicting statement, but I’m going to say it anyway: I did like the romance between Petula and Jacob. I enjoyed reading their romance and watching it blossom. However, what I didn’t like was the fact that Jacob became her savior. I read another mental illness story recently that was around the same topic. While the story did heavily involve romance, it didn’t really make the guy being the hero, the savior, the person who is the knight in shining armor. Literally the entire group tells Petula that she was SAVED by Jacob. Actual words. He really did actually force Petula to do a lot and a lot of her growth actually was from Jacob – I honestly can’t dispute that. I just didn’t like it. It felt too “man saves girl” and “man is the answer” and “love is the cure” which is a little too happily ever after (even for this Book Princess). I just didn’t like it, and if that hadn’t been included in the book, this would have been a five crown rating. I got a bit upset with that aspect, so I had to knock it down a crown.
Overall, this story was such a quick, fun read. It had likeable characters and interesting stories within the story. However, there was one overwhelming issue that I had with it that had me only giving this a four crown and Ariel rating…which is quite fitting since I totally get the feeling Petula and Ariel would totally get along.
Check it out:
What do you think? Have you read this yet? Do you ever read books you really enjoy but there is just one thing that just changes your mind at the end about it?