Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Review: How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

Natalie Standiford's How To Say Goodbye in Robot is a YA book for readers ages 13 & up. Published by Scholastic in 2009, this is a story of being misunderstood, of not fitting in, of friendships, and of family issues. It's not a happily-ever-after story, but there is a hopeful ending.

Summary: The new girl in town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day of school. 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 doom and gloom—and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?

How To Say Goodbye in Robot is a touching and slightly heartbreaking story. Beatrice struggles as the new girl in school, and Jonas is bullied and struggles to fit in as he's different and slightly eccentric. Jonas also struggles at home with a distant, almost heartless father who has kept Jonas from his long-lost, twin brother; a brother who has been hospitalized in an institution. Due to his being lied to about and separated from his brother, Jonas' unsympathetic father, his being bullied at school, and his lack of friends, Jonas struggles with an identity crisis, with depression, and other emotional distresses. Beatrice is his light in the darkness, but one person cannot possibly save someone, no matter how much they might want to help. Sadly, Jonas embraces his identity as "Ghost Boy" and at the end of the novel, enters a destructive spiral in his attempt to finally become a ghost in the world. It's harsh, but the ending isn't all sad, I promise.

Beatrice has it a little easier at home and at school, though her parents are having marital issues and her mother struggles with mental illness. In a few various moments of selfishness and immaturity, Beatrice's mother calls her a robot.

And the award for terrible mom of the year goes to...

Beatrice is accepted by her classmates, but she feels drawn to the lonely eccentric Jonas, who obviously is not a healthy friend to have. These two misfits find solace in their friendship, for better or for worse.

Not only will teens find the social drama relatable, but readers are also exposed to an enlightened way of thinking about social connections. Jonas and Beatrice's friendship lets readers see the world from an adult's mature point of view; something that's uncomfortably missing from the parental characters in the book. It gives the reader a mature and thoughtful perspective on life.

We see that Jonas isn't a good friend for Beatrice, and that she is better off without him, at least for the time being. We also see that Jonas isn't to be blamed for his downward spiral. Failing to be a good parent reflects negatively on one's children. The reader can see how one's actions, whatever the intention, can have seriously detrimental effects on a person. We blame Jonas' father for lying and for deciding to separate Jonas and his brother. We blame the other students for bullying him. Cause and effect. So many kids are bullied in school; this book brings to light some of the consequences of what is intended as teasing or as a mean-spirited joke.

A wonderfully written and powerful YA novel that speaks to difficult subjects. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, for all its emotional ups and downs. The social drama is a little like a train wreck-- it's uncomfortable, but you can't look away from the page. There is perspective to be gained here, teen readers: not all friends are good for us, and sometimes the people we want are not the people we need in our lives.

4 Stars

No comments:

Post a Comment