I read Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen between April 30th and May 1st, 2020 and gave it four stars. This is one of those books that I have no idea why or how I own. I mean, yes, I know it had been in my wishlist for a while and then I got it from BookOutlet, but I don’t know what made me add it to my wishlist in the first place. Then I started reading it and I understood. The main character, Petula, is going to this afterschool art therapy program to deal with what seems like obsessive-compulsive tendencies topped with anxiety/panic attacks caused by past trauma. I say “what seems like” because I am not a mental health professional so I can’t diagnose anybody. While in therapy, Petula meets Jacob, so we also know that he has his own history with mental illness.
Because I am a rebel, I will review review this book in a different style. This is something that I’ve done in the past, but I know that the challenge has brought new readers and followers, so this will be new for you. Basically, I will tell you which books this one reminds me of and the reasons why it does. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of whether you’d enjoy this book and if it is worth reading.
I read these two books last year and it took me a couples of days reading each. Both are all-time favorites now. The main characters in both books suffer from mental illness and for this reason, the plot focuses heavily on what they go through and what they constantly think about. Audrey from Finding Audrey, has severe anxiety, and Aza, from Turtles All the Way Down, has obsessive-compulsive tendencies, although it is never specified that she has been diagnosed with OCD. Petula, from Optimists Die First, calls herself a pessimist because she has these recurring, invasive thoughts about the worst-case scenario in every situation. I related to that when my anxiety was at its worst, but she acts upon these fears, which I think can also fit into the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. I also know that there are psychological currents that agree that OCD and anxiety both fit into neurosis. If you are looking for that kind of representation in a book, then check either of these out.
Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
Hello, my name is Camila and I love to suffer. I also read this book last year and it is also one of my favorites. In this book, Carver, the main character, deals with the guilt of having lost his three best friends in a car accident that he thinks he caused because he was texting the friend who was driving. Both Petula and Jacob, the love interest, deal with the guilt of having caused tragedies that led them to where they are in life. I think both stories narrate similar tragic events from different perspectives, which again, opens up a conversation that is not as present or as popular in young adult contemporary books as it should.
Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
I am talking all about mental health representation, but Optimists Die First had other types of rep as well. Now, before I talk about it, please know that I don’t know if my phrasing is correct or accurate or respectful, and if it isn’t, do correct me. I don’t know if this would count as representation for physical disability, but both in Optimists Die First and Girl Out of Water, the love interests have one arm. I read Girl Out of Water a few years ago, but I am almost certain that Lincoln did not have an accident that caused his arm to be amputated; he was born with one arm. He also does not have a prosthetic arm. Jacob did get part of his right arm amputated and he calls himself an amputee. He does have a prosthetic arm. I think the way this was handled was brilliant and I wish more authors would include characters that are real, that represent people we know and love and that in turn can make us a little kinder and more empathetic. I don’t know if the representation is accurate, but I’m sure you will let me know.
I hope you are having a great weekend. I am personally feeling a little disoriented since yesterday it was a holiday. What did you read to fulfill today’s prompt or what would you have read? Let me know in the comments.
Love, Miss Camila