Contemporary

How To Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

“I never told anyone about this nightly habit. I was sure my parents would send me to a shrink if they knew, and the shrink would institutionalize me or drug me or give me shock therapy or at least make me visit him five days a week. They wouldn’t understand. I didn’t want to die. I just found death soothing to think about.” – How To Say Goodbye in Robot, Natalie Standiford

I have a long, long list of good YA books in my TBR pile and was overwhelmed when it came to making a decision of which to read first. I settled on How To Say Goodbye in Robot not because it was the one I wanted to read the most, but because I wanted to save Will Grayson, Will Grayson for when I really need it, and I know starting on any of the David Levithans I have would make me want to read nothing but more David Levithans, and the same goes for Rachel Cohn. I’ve never read Natalie Standiford, and I only got How To Say Goodbye in Robot because of the quirky title and interesting synopsis, and to tell the truth it was mostly out of impulse. So I thought it’d be a good place to start – I would be able to immediately jump into the next book after I’m done.

Instead, this book turned out to be one of the most important reads I’ve had in a long time. I’m not saying it’ll be the same for everyone, because it’s one of those books that touched me very personally, like Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Daniel Clowe’s Ghost Worldand Rachel Cohn & David Levithan’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Because of how much this book affected me, though, I’m not sure if I can be coherent enough to even write about it. But I have to try.

The story is about Beatrice (nicknamed “Robot Girl” on her favourite radio talk show), whose family moved a lot because of her dad’s job, and the strange friendship she had struck with Jonah (“Ghost Boy”), a boy in her new school. They were definitely more than friends, but the relationship wasn’t a romantic one. I really don’t want to write more of the story than this, because I think this is one of those books that is best to read without knowing too much about it. (Well, that’s how I prefer most of my non-fantasy YA, anyway.)

Having described myself as a “Ghost Girl” for the longest time, having experienced a similar friendship (that even ended up in almost the same way as Bea & Jonas’s did), and having been to six schools in twelve years, I related to both Beatrice and Jonah. But I won’t get into that in this post; instead, I’ll write about other things I like about this book. I liked the radio show that Bea & Jonas listen to at night – the idea that a group of people could communicate and relate to each other, and become sort of like a family, over the radio, really appealed to me. I liked that the other kids at Bea & Jonah’s school weren’t portrayed asbad, exactly. They just didn’t see things the same way Bea & Jonah did. I liked that it’s about a platonic relationship, and how that could be just as complicated and intense (maybe even more complicated and intense) as a romantic one. I like Bea’s mother. I like the slow way the characters change throughout the novel – both Bea and her mother end up as completely different people from who they were at the beginning of the book. I like the quirkiness of this novel – the idea that there are people from the future living in our time thread, the idea of people who are from different backgrounds connecting through a radio show, the idea of dressing up in costumes and taking photographs of yourselves. And the whole thing about disappearing, becoming a ghost person, that really got to me too, because it was something that I’ve carried with me all through high school and college.

It’s one of the most endearing and heart-breaking books I’ve read in a long time. I don’t think that everyone will feel the same way about it (after all, my reaction to it is mostly personal) but it won’t stop me from recommending it!

Favourite Quotes:

“Is there or isn’t there what? How do you define a boyfriend? If a boyfriend is the first person you think about when you wake up in the morning and the last face you see before you fall asleep, then I was in love with Jonah. But if a boyfriend had to involve physical chemistry and kissing and sex and stuff, then, no, he wasn’t that.”

“People think It’s A Wonderful Life is a sappy movie, but they’re wrong. It’s sad. George Bailer is no saint. He’s angry. He hates his family. He wants to travel the world and have adventures, but his family keeps stopping him. He even says to his wife, ‘Why do we have to have all these kids?’ People tell themselves George doesn’t mean that, he’s just upset at that moment. But he does mean it. Sure, he loves his wife and kids, in that helpless way people love their families. He’s stuck with them, so he makes the best of a bad situation. He’s a hero because he makes something good out of a life he doesn’t want. I’d like to be able to do that. I hope it’s something you can learn.”

~ originally posted on livejournal

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