Wednesday, January 5, 2011

[Review] How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

Title: How to Say Goodbye in Robot [Debut Novel]
Author: Natalie Standiford
Publication: December 2010 (PB)
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: Bought
Age:12+
Pages: 288
My Rating:

Blurb:
From bestselling author Natalie Standiford, an amazing, touching story of two friends navigating the dark waters of their senior year.

New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn't made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It's not romance, exactly - but it's definitely love. Still, Bea can't quite dispel Jonah's gloom and doom - and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?
My Thoughts:
Warning: Another long review!

The Story:

The book begins with Bea’s narrative about a gerbil she once found. After a trip to the pet store for some supplies, she and her mum discover gerbil "Goebbels" (to Bea)/"Peaches" (to her mum) dead. Her mum is reduced to tears, while Bea remains almost unfazed by the incident.

“‘Where did my sweet little daughter go? And who is this hard-hearted robot?’”

Bea will be moving yet again for her last year of high school. Due to her rough and complicated family situation, she has never been able to settle in one place for long.

“I’d been the new girl before; I didn’t care what the Canton kids would think of me. One year and I was out of there forever. I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care what they think.” (p.10)

However, she can't help getting intrigued by Ghost Boy, who scored his name by having deathly pale skin and his seeming inability to make friends with anyone at Canton High. He leaves her a note, directing her to a radio station which plays Midnight Lights, a cozy community-radio station hot-line for insomniacs. Eventually the two are bound by forces undeniably strong as the two talk, fight, hang out, discover, explore. They're not lovers, but they're way more than friends or even best friends. But secrets have a way of not quite being right, and people end up paying the price for their lies.

My Review:

How to Say Goodbye in Robot -- what a beautiful title, and what a simple but playful cover. It's bold, and appeals to me in the same way that Stargirl appealed to me.

The book is written in that "isn't going anwhere" way--just many tiny fragments and memories pieced together in sequence. However, when the big picture is taken, a whole different perspective is found, and it is then that the novel goes from good or okay to something that actually makes one feel. Because every little memory was significant in character building (to who we find at the start), in character development (to who we finish with), and when that last page is read, I just sat back and thought, Wow.

Bea was unsure, withdrawn, but tried her hardest to see things through and get by. And that's why I found myself able to relate to her. She has family issues which unravel as the pages pass by, she can never stay in one place for long, she's never found true happiness: in other words, she's not perfect, nor is her life. Let us all rejoice in protagonists that have problems! "Ghost Boy" Jonah is seen as an enigmatic figure at the beginning, but he grew on me alongside Bea's growing connection towards him. He is the basis of all "misunderstood kids" out there. He's never had it easy. His mother and twin brother both died in a car accident when he was young, and his father just doesn't get it. The kids are school only communicate to him in the form of ridicules and to poke fun at his ghostly demeanour.

In the coming together of these two, I really saw the true strength that friendship can provide individuals. The ending was just amazing. It's one of those books that just haunted me even after I'd finished the last page and put the book down. The writing style is flawless, seamlessly flowing from page to page.

It is so very rare to come across a YA novel that portrays a relationship between boy and a girl as just friends, and nothing more, but Standiford achieves this with gusto in her debut novel, How to Say Goodbye in Robot. This novel exceeded any preceding expectations I could have held for it. Robot was funny, Robot was sad and depressing, Robot was bittersweet, memorable, provocative, and is so cleverly written that I could not help but fall right into its pages.

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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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Learn more about How to Say Goodbye in Robot and read more reviews at Goodreads


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