Title: Optimists Die First (2017)
Author: Susin Nielsen
Genres: Young adult, Contemporary and Mental Health
Publisher: Andersen Press and Penguin Random House UK Children’s
Release Date: 2nd March 2017
Reviewed by: Lois
“Petula has avoided friendship and happiness ever since tragedy struck her family and took her beloved younger sister Maxine. Worse, Petula blames herself. If only she’d kept an eye on her sister, if only she’d sewn the button Maxine choked on better, if only…
Now her anxiety is getting out of control, she is forced to attend the world’s most hopeless art therapy class. But one day, in walks the Bionic Man: a charming, amazingly tall newcomer called Jacob, who is also an amputee. Petula’s ready to freeze him out, just like she did with her former best friend, but when she’s paired with Jacob for a class project, there’s no denying they have brilliant ideas together”
Petula de Wilde suffers a family tragedy that makes her shut off from the world. Once she lived a happy life crafting her days away. However Petula now sees a danger in everything from crossroads to construction sites. When her art therapy group is forced to do a group project things in her life begin to change.
I read Susin Nielsen’s “We Are All Made of Molecules” last year whilst on holiday in just one day. One of the reasons for this was I was so immersed in the book I could not put it down. So, as soon as I saw that Susin Nielsen had written a new book I was desperate to give it a read. I waited until I had a couple of free days and dove straight into the story. Within two days I had finished the book. I again, could not put the book down and got extremely involved with the story.
I know a lot of people will have issues with the way that Susin Nielsen deals with mental health issues and grief. However, this is to be expected for any book that deals with these issues. Yes, this book doesn’t portray mental health perfectly, but everyones experience of mental health is different. Petula has extreme paranoia disorder which at times can seem a little fake but it is authentic for what Petula has been through and where she is at.
I loved the characters in this book. Jacob and Petula both made me smile throughout the book. I could somewhat relate to Petula’s anxiety but mine is nowhere near the extent of Petula’s. I enjoyed Jacob’s character, I think this was mostly down to his love of filmmaking and creativity. As well as bring able to learn a little more about amputees. Oddly, the character I could relate the most to was Petula’s mother. Her love for fostering cats and not being able to leave one behind is exactly how I would be when it came to fostering dogs. I enjoyed that each cat Petula’s mother brought home was named after a book character. It was a nice touch to bring in the cats as a way for Petula’s mother to deal with grief.
The only issue I had with this book was that the characters seemed a little too immature for a young adult book. Obviously, for the younger side of young adult readers this is perfect. It just felt a little bit too old for me given the subject matter.
Overall, I enjoyed this heartfelt story. All the characters are interesting and the story builds perfectly. The story isn’t as heavy as I expected but works really well. A brilliant book for anyone looking for something to dive into quickly.
Thank you to Netgalley, Susin Nielsen, Andersen Press and Penguin Random House UK Children’s for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Until next time,
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