General rating: ★★★★
Diversity rating: ★★★ (contains: POC, LGBT+, disability; please correct me if I am wrong because it could be that I forgot/misremembered)
When I saw this title, I just knew I needed to read this, and I don’t even know why. I am an optimist, so dying first wouldn’t have been the best thing, but I’m glad I did pick it up!
Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen
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. . .
Optimists Die First is about Petula (I keep forgetting that name), who is a hard-core pessimist, in every situation she sees danger. She suffers from anxiety since her little sister died tragically. Petula blames herself for her death and now makes it her absolute priority to stay alive, because she is the only child her parents have left. But in her trying to stay alive, she forgets to actually live. Her live consists of school and YART sessions, which are group therapy meetings in which they do arts and crafts. Petula has been a crafter since she was young but now hates the meetings.
One day a new boy comes in school and he has to be his project partner and also is in the YART sessions. His coming shakes up the entire group, which normally never talked outside meetings. Jacob (I can’t seem to remember any names from this book..) has been in a car accident and lost part of his arm and two of his friends. Now he has a bionic arm and a broken mind.
I loved the characters and how real they felt, they weren’t perfect, they had flaws and that made it only more realistic. My favourite character was Petula, her negativity ruled her behaviour and her fear was felt grounded. There was a lot of character development which I loved! Jacob was also a very grey character (neither good nor bad), which is always very interesting to read about. The characters felt so realistic and relatable, which is a huge plus!
“Optimists believe things will always work out for the best. Optimists live in a rainbow-coloured, sugar-coated land of denial.
Optimists miss warning signs.”
There were some other smaller things that I loved about the book. I loved the filmmaking aspect of this book, I don’t know why, I just really liked it. I also loved the cats! Even reading the dedication: “To all the other crazy cat people. You know who you are.” really made my inner cat lover laugh.
I did not see the plot twist coming, which is not usually the case. Most of the time you can already see where the story is heading before it is actually heading there. I can’t say what happens but I really liked the way it was resolved and how everything came together in the end.
I give this book 4 stars because of the characters, the heavy but interesting topics and of course the cats 🙂 I would recommend this book to anyone who loves Nicola Yoon’s books and contemporary books with a heavier undertone.
** I received this book via NetGalley and the publisher, but my opinions are all my own**
The book will come out February 27th 2017.