Optimists Die First | Susin Nielsen | Anderson Press | 02 March 2017
About the Book
Petula has avoided friendship and happiness ever since tragedy struck her family and took her beloved younger sister Maxine. Worse, Petula blames herself. If only she’d kept an eye on her sister, if only she’d sewn the button Maxine choked on better, if only…
Now her anxiety is getting out of control, she is forced to attend the world’s most hopeless art therapy class. But one day, in walks the Bionic Man: a charming, amazingly tall newcomer called Jacob, who is also an amputee. Petula’s ready to freeze him out, just like she did with her former best friend, but when she’s paired with Jacob for a class project, there’s no denying they have brilliant ideas together – ideas like remaking Wuthering Heights with cats.
But Petula and Jacob each have desperately painful secrets in their pasts – and when the truth comes out, there’s no way Petula is ready for it.
I enjoyed We Are All Made of Molecules. So, I was looking forward to reading Optimists Die First. In fact, I had every intention of reading it back over the Christmas break. But, I managed to pick up a mild case of the lurgy, which dumped me into an unwanted reading slump!
I’m pleased to say that both Optimists Die First and Phil Earle’s, Mind the Gap have done a fantastic job of dragging me out again.
I enjoyed meeting Petula and the rest of the gang at the art therapy group. They’re a great bunch, and get to develop as much as Petula and Jacob as they start to take control. They’re much more than secondary characters. It’s a real pleasure to watch them become friends.
But, it is Petula, and Jacob’s stories that are the focus of the story. Despite her issues with anxiety and her pessimism, there is a wonderful light-heartedness about her narration (especially when talking about the ever-growing herd of cats her mum brings home!).
I loved the way her relationship with Jacob developed. From wanting nothing to do with him at first to falling in love with him. It was also good to see that while his arrival is the catalyst that allows them all to start moving forward, he is not the magic ‘boyfriend’ cure. The issues are all still there, they still need treatment. They are just dealing with things a little better.
When I first finished it, I gave it four stars on Goodreads. Mainly because you can’t give it 4 ½. Having had a few days to mull it over, I’m going to up it to a full five. It deserves it.
My copy of Optimists Die First was provided by the publisher for review purposes.