Life ahead: Proceed with caution.
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.
Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. My initial thoughts on this book? Wow, this book sure is short! Seriously, at somewhere around 230 pages (and with an uncomplicated writing style and plot) this one only took me just over an hour to read. And before you ask, no I didn’t rush through it. It was just a very easy read.
I’m a little torn about this book. It wasn’t bad, I didn’t dislike it. But I didn’t love it either. It was okay, but it didn’t grip me. The writing itself was well done and enjoyable, but I wasn’t a big fan of the portrayal of the subject matter. This book deals with anxiety, and as someone that has anxiety I can be fairly pick when it comes to books that deal with anxiety. There are some books that do an amazing job, and some books that don’t do a great job of it. For me this book fell into the latter category. While reading it I couldn’t help but feel like the author downplayed how serious anxiety is and can be, and I also didn’t appreciate the fact that after the romance started the main character seemed to be miraculously anxiety free. Anxiety doesn’t work that way, at least not in my experience. I’m just not a huge fan of the “get a boyfriend and you’ll be fixed!” trope that is popular in a lot of YA.
Since I’ve mentioned the romance let’s talk about that for a minute. It wasn’t horrible. But it also didn’t have me hoping that the characters would end up together, which is usually the goal when writing romance. At least I assume it is. It was definitely more of a “instant love”, which I know can bother a lot of people. That part didn’t bother me really, but I just wasn’t excited about the romance. It fell a little flat for me. I also want to say that I’ve read a few reviews and some seem to agree that the romance was definite “insta-love” and other seem to think it wasn’t.
Now with that being said, I did really enjoy the characters. There was an overall quirky and fun quality to the characters, and the plot itself, that I enjoyed. There were a lot of supporting characters that I loved, and they were all well written and well-rounded for such a short book. I can’t mention this book without bringing up cats, as this book was full of them. I’m more of a dog person myself, but I loved all of the focus on cats and how it helped to keep things quirky and lighten the mood. The plot itself was decent and well thought out, if a teeny tiny bit predictable.
Overall this one was pretty average. I think if it had been longer and had gone into more detail and dug a little deeper with some of the issues presented that it could have been a really great book. As it is this one was a 3/5 stars for me. It’s a good choice if you ever need a fast and quirky read.