Estelle: How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Pages: 288 pages
Published: October 1, 2009
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover borrowed from the library
How I heard about it: Over at Anna Reads.

Summary: Thanks to her dad’s new job, Beatrice is forced to start her senior year at a new school and her mom is just plain miserable. On her first day of school, Beatrice begins a tumultuous friendship with Jonah, a loner with the nickname Ghost Boy. Even as they get to know each other and they scheme to track down his brother (who he once believed to be dead), Jonah has a tendency to detach. And that is something Bea just doesn’t understand. Perhaps she’s not as unfeeling as her mom thinks she is…

I know you aren’t supposed to choose a book by its cover but How to Say Goodbye in Robot is probably the best-looking book I’ve picked up all year. Brilliant hot pink pages pinpoint each month that goes by during Beatrice’s senior year at a new high school. At this point, Beatrice is used to moving around a lot as her dad finds better and better teaching positions at colleges but her mom comes off a little bi-polar and obsessed with chickens. This is where the title comes in — Beatrice’s mom calls her a robot when she fails to feel anything for a dead gerbil. She starts to question whether her mom is right — is she detached from her emotions?

At school, Beatrice strikes up an unlikely friendship with Jonah, dubbed as Ghost Boy by the rest of his graduating class. While this move is not the best for her social standing at school, Bea and Jonah begin to depend on each other. They also listen to a late-night radio show filled with some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever come across. In no way is this your typical high school YA and I think that’s why I loved it so much. Instead of being obsessed with clothes, the popular crowd, or falling for each other, both of these characters are struggling with real problems and seeking solace in each other. Kind of. Jonah likes to push Bea away, and she has trouble dealing with that. He gets jealous when she goes on dates, ignores her for a long periods of time, and then jumps back into her life.

It’s not healthy. Not even close. But I could relate to the hope that Bea clinged to. That Jonah would realize how much he needed her, how much their friendship meant in the grand scheme of things… this novel is very well-written. From start to finish, it’s better than a lot of the adult fiction I’ve been reading. (Although, unfortunately, this seems like a growing trend.) The tone is melancholy yet down-to-earth. I felt Jonah and Bea were some of the more relatable YA characters I’ve come across, at least when it came to my own middle school and high school experiences.

I can’t sit here and psych all of you up for a happy ending. The way things went down may have been the best thing for both characters but it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.

By the way, any book that opens with Truman Capote quote — it’s got the goods.

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