Format: Paperback, 276 pages
Publication date: October 1, 2009
From bestselling author Natalie Standiford, an amazing, touching story of two friends navigating the dark waters of their senior year.
New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. 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 gloom and doom – and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?
This is the third Natalie Standiford book I’ve read, and I believe it was her debut. I enjoy her writing style – it’s direct and concise, like the journalist that she is. She also writes about quirky things and quirky characters, which I also list. But I felt like I just didn’t connect with this book – even though the concept of platonic friends and self-discovery is one I usually like.
A big part of this was the characters – while they were well-developed and authentic, I personally didn’t have a connection with Bea or Jonah. Both characters are very stand-offish, and it was hard for me to love them. In fact, I found Jonah to be quite unlikeable and rather whiny. He does have reason to be this way, but because the book relies so heavily on their friendship, and the reader being charmed or drawn into that relationship, I felt like I was reading as an observer more than as someone who was really into the story.
That said, two things stood out to me: one was the late-night lonely souls radio show that Jonah and Bea listened to every night. I admit to being very charmed by the callers, and I liked that Standiford gave us more than just their voices – we really got to see the characters behind them and how they affected Bea and Jonah. The other thing that was done really well were the relationships between Bea, her parents, her other school friends, and Jonah and his family. The storylines and characters wove together nicely, and it was interesting to see the parallels between the relationships.
Friendship vs. Romance – you know how sometimes you’re just not sure whether you’re in a relationship or not, but whatever you’re in feels much more meaningful than “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”? That’s what Bea and Jonah have, and it’s refreshing to read a book about that rather than just straight romance.
The Final Word:
HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT is a solid read – I can see people really loving it, and others feeling the same as I did. Ultimately, I think whether you like the book or not comes down to how much you like and connect with the extremely quirky characters.
Are you into quirky, sometimes unlikeable characters in your books? Do your books have to have romance, or are you okay with just friendship or maybe even something in between? Would you pick up HOW TO SAY GOODBYE in ROBOT? Let me know in the comments!