by Susie Nielsen
by Random House/Wendy Lamb Books
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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. . .
Review of Optimists Die First
At times this book felt to me a little like a Canadian Sarah Dessen - damaged protagonist, damaged love interest, a strong emphasis on family, and a very coherent and heavily thematic plot. There were lovely moments that charmed and moved me.
On the negative side, the book's treatment of mental health issues seemed a little flimsy. The story centers around Petula's art therapy group, which fits perfectly into the book's cats-and-crafting theme but I kept wondering if glue and glitter was the extent of Petula's treatment? It seems to me she needs one-on-one time with a qualified therapist and maybe even some medication.
The other issue I had with the story was the way that tragedy and whimsy was mixed together, which didn't always work for me. Petula's mother copes with tragedy by adopting a lot of cats, which I found believable. But then the main character and the love interest make a movie about Wuthering Heights starring cats as a school project and ... what?
Have you read this?