Title: Optimists Die First
Author: Susin Nielsen
Genre & Age Group: Contemporary, young adult
Award-winning author Susin Nielsen has written a laugh-out-loud and heartrending novel for fans of Robyn Schneider’s Extraordinary Means and Cammie McGovern’s Say What You Will.
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. . .
Source: Thanks so much to Indigo Books & Music Inc for providing me with a physical ARC of this book!
How I Found Out About It: Indigo newsletter
I just want to savour this beauty again and again.
Optimists Die First was absolutely amazing. Going into it, I had already read and really enjoyed Susin Nielsen’s book We Are All Made of Molecules, and I have to say that this one was superior to its 4 star rating!
For a brief synopsis, this book revolves around a teenage girl named Petula. Her baby sister’s tragic death two years ago has caused her to close off from the rest of the world, causing her lots of anxiety. In order to try to minimize the grief, she is forced to attend an art therapy class every week, which she absolutely despises. Pretty soon, a new student named Jacob joins her English class and therapy group, whom Petula doesn’t really like at first, but she finds herself warming up to him over time. His prosthetic arm poses a lot of questions as to why he is in need of therapy… will he be able to open up, and will Petula be forced to take risks and find out on her own?
The characters in this book were awesome, and if you know me, then you know I love books with great character development, with this story being one of them. Petula, our protagonist, was absolutely flawed in the sense that she just couldn’t stop blaming herself and weeping over her sister’s death, but I honestly understand where she’s coming from, especially knowing how she passed away. I really liked how she developed into a stronger, braver girl by the end of the book- while she was still sad about her sister’s death, at the same time, she was also trying to bring other important things to the front of her mind.
As for Jacob, on the other hand, I could tell from the start that there was something sketchy about him. I could just feel it, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I liked the mystery surrounding him and trying to figure out what in the world it was that was keeping him in the group, and as well, I loved how supportive and loyal he was to Petula in a time of trouble. He always had one ear open to listen, and was there for her at all times, no matter what. I just know that Petula and Jacob will be a ship that sails in my mind forever💕.
Then we had this HUGE plot twist close to the end, which I wasn’t expecting at all! It made me completely reevaluate the whole book and all the decisions made by the characters. Despite that sudden turn of events, I still feel like it was resolved very well by the end of the book.
All in all, Optimists Die First was a moving, coming-of-age story which shows you the joys of taking risks even when you’re reluctant, and that even if you may think that you are the one who is to be blamed for a tragedy, there are really so many other factors that can add up in the responsibility pie. Yes, you probably do count as a slice, but many other things take part, too, and this book makes it easy to see how you shouldn’t blame yourself for any the misfortunes you encounter. For those who are fans of coming-of-age novels with amazing characters and great lessons, I am optimistic (and sure😉) that you will DEVOUR this one!
*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review.*