Optimists Die First
Author: Susin Nielsen
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Genre/Themes: YA, Contemporary, Mental Health
Release Date: February 21st 2017
Page Count: 240
*Disclaimer: An ARC of Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen was provided to me by Goodreads through their first reads program. This does not effect my opinion in any way.
This was the first ever book I have won through the Goodreads First Reads program and words cannot describe how excited I was when I was told that I had won! Optimists Die First had been a book that was on my radar for a little while and I was so excited that I was finally going to be able to read it! I hadn’t read anything by Susin Nielsen yet and I was hoping that this novel would be a great start for me to get into her writing!
Sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef. The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt. When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears. Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything.
What I Liked
The writing style. I really enjoyed the way this book was written. It was just a beautiful way of writing, I’m not really sure how else to explain it. It was fast paced and flowed really nicely.
The side-characters. I feel like I enjoyed reading about the side-characters more than I did about Petula. There was just something about them that was more compelling. Each of them had their own demons that they had to live with and it was great to slowly learn about them as the story moved forward. I would have really liked to learn more about them though. As mentioned, this story was very fast-paced and quite short in length, therefore it focused mostly on Petula and Jacob.
A touch of Canada. This story takes place in Vancouver, British Columbia and it also mentions little bits of Toronto, Ontario which was fantastic! It made little nods to all things Canadian, like timbits, the AGO and the ROM. It was fun to read something that takes place in the country that I’m from and to be able to pick up on little things like that.
What I Didn’t Like
Insta-love. Unfortunately, due to the quick pace and the short length of this novel, the romance between Petula and Jacob felt a little too insta-love for me. I understand that in reality spending all of this time together would probably have led to these two characters realizing that they had feelings for one another, but I just wish we could have seen it develop a little more.
Originality? I can’t say that this story felt very original for me personally. I have read a lot of books that deal with the social issues that are brought to life in this story, and while they are completely important topics and there should be many books, especially for teens, that deal with these topics…I just don’t think this one brought anything new to the table. It didn’t really “wow” me as much as some others have.
While Optimists Die First a tad underwhelming, I can see why so many people love the writing of Susin Nielsen. It really was written beautifully and I can’t wait to get my hands on some of her other work!
About The Author
I got my start writing for the original Degrassi Junior High. I’ve done a lot of writing for TV over the years. A part of my brain stopped growing when I was about 13 (this isn’t a medical fact, just a gut feeling). I suspect it’s why I love writing middle grade and YA fiction. Drop me a line via Facebook or Twitter – or send me a good ol’ fashioned e-mail. I love hearing from my readers.
Thank you for reading!