TITLE: Optimists die first
WRITTEN BY: Susin Nielsen
PUBLISHED BY: Andersen Press Ltd
VERSION I READ: e-arc through netgalley
DIVERSITY: mental health and disability.
(PLOT BY GR) 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.
Thank you so much to Andersen Press Ltd and Netgalley for granted me a free copy of “Optimists die first” in exchange of a review. The fact that I received a copy for free doesn’t condition my review.
“Optimists die first” is a story about grief, mental health, disability and guilt but it is also a story about the willing to take back the control of your life.
I have been dragged by Susin Nielsen’s words that I didn’t even realize I was at the end of this book: the writing is so simple and funny, it never gets to heavy even if “Optimists die first” portraits a story of grief and guilty but Petula’s cynicism gives a fresh tone to the entire story.
This story follows Petula who blames herself for the death of her baby sister and from that event she developed anxiety, guilt and her new motto “Optimists die first”. This book has a few elements for a good diverse book but I wish that the author would have gone deeper with representing them:
- MENTAL HEALTH: Petula has been developed anxiety and OCD disorder after her sister’s death. She has been pretty anxious about everything, even actions that are daily actions for another person like walk in the street; also this anxiety leads to OCD disorder where every action could turn in something deadly i.e. if you take the elevator it could crash down and you could die.
- DISABILITY: Jacob, the male main character, has a prosthetic arm after being involved in a car accident; this is also the reason why he starts attending a therapy group where he meets Petula. The element of disability has been treated just on the surface. We didn’t know anything about how Jacob’s felt about it.
- I have also got a third element but it is too much of a spoiler so you will find out reading the book. I will just say that it will challenge the relationship between Petula and Jacob.
- GRIEF and GUILTY: Petula’s baby sister died sucking a button from a costume that Petula made for her while she was sleeping, also Petula was babysitting her sister that night. Instead “Optimists die first” wasn’t able to portrait her mother and father’s grief and guilt it was a little superficial: her father never wanted to talk about the little girl and her mother hide her grief with adopting all the cats that she could find at the shelter.
“Optimists die first” may keep its light tone because a lot of elements didn’t handle them in a deeper way. I enjoyed a lot the Petula’s cynicism and that is what made me connect with her character: Petula is such a treasure and fresh character, I related to her in so many ways especially when she is so depressed and start to judge every person who lives different from her. That was so me in my teens but I tend currently behave like that in really dark times.
If you are looking for a diverse book with a light tone “Optimists die first” is definitely the book for you.