Saturday, 30 January 2010
Review: How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Publisher: Scholastic US
Released: October 1st, 2009
Grade rating: B+
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?
How to Say Goodbye in Robot is a bittersweet, heartbreaking depiction of a true, all-consuming platonic love. There are no smouldering sidelong glances or cringeworthy desires to have sex, instead there's just complete and utter trust and adoration between two people who share more than a physical attraction.
Jonah and Bea are far from perfect. They have flaws, they make mistakes, and they fight. Aside from all this, they always go back to one another, and know that they have one person in the world they can count on. It's a beautiful relationship, and their connection is made all the more realistic through transcripts of a midnight radio show that the pair listen to daily. The wide range of people who ring into the show are fascinating yet somewhat unbelievable, and have their personalities exaggerated for the purpose of kookiness. They're still fun to get to know though, especially Myrna and Larry, two of my favourite radio Night Lighters.
Jonah uncovers something quite shocking early on in the book, and though it may seem far-fetched at first, it becomes more plausible as his situation is better explained. His revelation is both the beginning and the end of a lot of different things, and I couldn't help but wish it had remained a deeply buried secret. The sub-plot focusing on Bea's stable-but-not parents is interesting but unnecessary. Standiford could have carried this book on Jonah and Bea alone, without focusing on other, less important conflicts. It does add extra depth to the characters, but it's not a particularly memorable part of the story.
I loved How to Say Goodbye in Robot. I devoured it in one sitting, laughed in all the right places, and cried at the end. Jonah and Bea are powerful characters with so much love for each other that it's hard to remember they're just friends. But they are. And they're the best kind.