Wednesday, 4 January 2017

In which I squawk at you to read Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

Optimists Die FirstTitle: Optimists Die First
Series: N/A
Author: Susin Nielsen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication: March 2nd 17, Andersen Press
Pages: 224 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you so much to LoveReading4Kids and Andersen Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 4/5 Cupcakes!
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. . . 

I loved this book. I picked it up at 6pm and it was finished two hours later. I very rarely read a book in one sitting so if that doesn't convince you to pick up Optimists Die First, fear not because I have quite a few reasons more to persuade you to pick up this raw, poignant novel with its flawed yet lovable characters and its sharp dialogue.

I adored the characters. We have our main character, Petula, who I could relate to so much. I have anxiety, not in the form that she has, though, but I also always jump to the worst of conclusions and I'm often plagued by the “What if?” question when navigating day-to-day activities that shouldn't warrant thoughts regarding such catastrophes. I can also be quite pessimistic and cynical (even though I'm trying to change that!) so there were many instances when I could some of my own worries and insecurities in Petula. I absolutely love it when I can relate to a character as it makes me feel that much more understood – just one of the things I love about reading.
I adored Jacob as well! I loved how kind and understanding he was, how he tried to make everybody feel better about themselves because he knew how it felt to have the world turn your back on you and retract its offered hand once it had found out about your quirks and the darkest parts of you that you needed someone to forgive and not discriminate you for. I loved his personality and his sense of humour and I just wanted to wrap him in a big hug BECAUSE HE'S SO SWEET AND ASDFGHJK.

I fell utterly in love with the other characters in this book too, specifically all the people who attended Petula's art therapy class. Alonzo, Koula and Ivan had all danced with demons who threatened to defeat them, they had their flaws and they showed a darker side of them that was hard for them to forgive – I loved them. I loved how real they were. I loved how this book showed that we all have things we're not proud of, every single person has struggles and if we can learn to love and forgive not only others who have made mistakes, but also ourselves, we could make so many more people – including us – happier. I loved seeing how they could learn to love themselves and each other despite the guilt and the sadness that was choking them, I loved watching them put aside their differences to lift each other up, it was beautiful watching all of them turn into happier, confident people. The friendship all five of them developed was beautiful and I may have cried. Once or twice.

I loved the romance as well and more than once I found myself clutching my copy of the book and squealing “I LOVE THIS BOOK AND THEY'RE SO CUTE I SHIPPITY SHIP THEM”. I loved how they were friends first, I loved their banter, I loved how Jacob helped Petula and all the others in YART, I loved how they made adaptations of novels with Petula's cats...I just loved the romance and despite a few issues they experienced I still think they make a wonderful couple. I love how they showed each other they were both capable of loving and being loved – it made me smile.

I seriously fell in love with this book. It made me realise that I needed to forgive and love myself more and embrace who I am, it made me realise that I need to forgive others for their mistakes and not be so quick to judge because we're all laced with scars and that some just hide it better than others. A thought-provoking, heart-warming novel that blends the ache of grief, the beauty of our flaws, the anchor of guilt and the incredible miracles a sprinkling of kindness and acceptance can work, to form a beautifully poignant love story that is raw and real. Not only does it contain a romance that will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, it is filled with friendship, love, forgiveness and cats – what more could you ask for? I fell deeply in love with this book and I'm sure you will too.

I give it: 4/5 cupcakes

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