Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell (website | twitter)
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: death of a classmate, bucket lists, social outcast
Format Read: ARC received via Netgalley. (Thank you!)
Other Books Read by Author: Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe
Summary: Rebel Blue is detached and rough-around-the-edges. That is, until she’s taken aback by Kennedy Green’s death, a do-gooder girl who had a very deep conversation with Rebel just before her death. Unable to get rid of Kennedy’s bucket list, Rebel sets out to complete it for her and makes life-changing decisions along the way.
Remember last year when Estelle and I couldn’t stop gushing about Shelley Coriell’s Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe in Estelle’s Attention, Attention post, my review, and the book-themed gift pack? Truth be told, I prolonged reading Goodbye, Rebel Blue until I needed that absolute win, the guaranteed love affair with a book I was certain I would be granted. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same affection for Rebel that I did for Chloe, leaving me a little disappointed and underwhelmed.
Rebel Blue comes across as a distanced and troubled teenager; she doesn’t care about making good grades, often finds herself in detention, and is less than affectionate with her aunt, uncle, and cousin (with whom she lives after the death of her mother). She adorns her backpack with shark teeth and wears chunky blue streaks in her brown hair. Rebel is not a member of the popular crowd.
One day she finds herself in detention (again), but this time goody-two-shoes Kennedy Green also finds herself stuck in the counselor’s office for a few hours. Kennedy and Rebel have a very distant relationship; they’re aware of who the other is, but wouldn’t be considered friends by definition. When the counselor tells them to make a bucket list of twenty things they want to do before they die, chatterbox Kennedy abruptly scribbles down her list and overwhelms Rebel with conversation. For two near-strangers, they have a very deep conversation about being in the right place at the right time.
The next day, Rebel finds out that Kennedy died in a car accident.
Feeling a bit taken aback by Kennedy’s sudden death, Rebel races to the detention room to find the discarded bucket lists. There’s a bit of speculation about if Kennedy committed suicide. Surely her list would be an indicator, but Rebel finds it to be a reflection of the happy-go-lucky girl Kennedy was and cannot discard it. Instead, she decides to tackle the list and complete the things Kennedy aspired to do.
The majority of my struggle with Goodbye, Rebel Blue lies in the overall execution of completing the bucket list. There were twenty items on the list, and oftentimes, I felt like just as Rebel was making a bit of progress toward completing an item and overcoming huge obstacles, the stage would fade to black and the next scene would be her facing the next obstacle. The transitions often seemed a little bit jarring, as if I had missed a few paragraphs, because there were so many hurdles to jump. I felt little closure and maybe if the list had been shortened, more time would have been allotted to each task. I strongly feel this would have a) given me a better sense of time as it passed, and b) allowed me to accept the character changes Rebel was going through without feeling as if the story was being rushed.
There’s quite a large can of worms that is approached by Rebel near the end of the novel that I also felt was completely neglected when I finished the book. I’m not sure if there will be a continuation of this story, but it seemed rather huge to introduce and then leave it hanging. And the message, while a good one, is definitely reiterated over and over, and quite possibly too literally, leaving little room for interpretation. I really love strong, positive messages, but again, a little more finessing may have made this aspect a little less forced and more organic.
While it was lovely to be distantly reconnected with old friends, Chloe and Clem, via their cameos, I wish I was able to feel as excited and inspired by Rebel’s story as I was Chloe’s. One lovely addition to Goodbye, Rebel Blue was definitely Nate, the go-gooder boy who is intrigued by Rebel, and his huge My Life Next Door-esque family that will melt your heart.