Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Review - How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Bea and Jonah are not going to have a friendship like other people have a friendship, where it’s all based on gossip and parties and what everybody else thinks. Instead, their friendship comes form truth-bound conversations, shared secrets, daring stunts, and late-night calls to the same old-timer radio show. They help each other and hurt each other, push away and hold close. It’s not romance, exactly – but it’s definitely love. And that means more to them than either one can ever really know…
For anyone who’s ever entered the wonderful, treacherous, consuming, meaningful world of true friendship, How to Say Goodbye in Robot will strike a deep and lasting chord.
Beatrice Szebo (affectionately known as Bea or Robot Girl) is a 17 year-old girl imposed to the gypsy lifestyle by her father, a biology professor who is always on the lookout for better staff positions. This translates into a string of family relocations, the latest of which takes Bea from Ithaca, NY to Baltimore, MD. Once there, Bea is promptly enrolled an uber-preppy high school attended by the city’s riches and brightest. Initially, her school life resumes as usual; Bea’s classmates seem friendly but shallow, allowing her to adopt her typical semi-outcast demeanor. But then, purely by happenstance, Bea meets Jonah Tate (not-so-affectionately known as Ghost Boy). Desiring to be the exemplary high school outcast, Jonah always eats lunch alone and has a policy of ignoring everyone…everyone except for Bea.
Jonah and Bea click instantly, brought together by a common fascination with a quirky late night radio talk show called the Night Lights where participation is always welcome and anyone can assume any identity. As the teens begin to make new friends over the FM wavelengths, they find much needed acceptance and a new, more welcoming niche in the world. Slowly, they start to transform into the happiest people they have ever been-a pair of misfits that perfectly fit one another.
Then, out of nowhere, Jonah’s life is completely altered when he receives a unexpected message from his twin brother, Matthew. Without going into any spoiler details, the sudden reappearance of Matthew has a staggering impact on the whole plot. Driven by their desire to uncover Matthew’s mysterious predicament as well as rescue him from it, Jonah and Bea turn into a pair of high school sleuths, performing undercover operations that include gender altering disguises complete with wigs, fake IDs and a few other things.
This seem like fun adventures at first, but it isn’t. Jonah has a lot at stake, much more than Bea could ever know, and as the plot takes one last sharp turn south, the Krazy Glue-like love that Bea and Jonah have for each other is no longer enough to pin him to the happiness they once shared. There is a falling-out and Jonah retreats into himself, deeper than ever, too deep for Robot Girl’s reach.
I really liked this book. Jonah and Bea are a great pair of imperfect teen characters. I didn’t like them most of the time but I loved them all of the time. It was their platonic love for each that did it. Their relationship, which I can only liken to a mixture of what siblings and soul-mates have, was wonderful. Every time Jonah disappeared, I felt the hole, the missing piece in Bea. But how do you make room for a new soul-mate when you already have one in your twin brother? Standiford answers that question by conjuring up a most interesting conclusion. A conclusion that is equal parts splendid and savage. At least those are the words that came to me as I read it.
I was also impressed by the supporting characters in the book. Standiford didn’t do anything groundbreaking by including a semi-depressed mother, a workaholic father and sting of shallow high school classmates, but she used all of them advantageously. They weren’t over-dramatized, and so I never got bored or exasperated when they popped up here and there inside the plot.
Finally, I have to give a shout-out to the designers of this book, particularly the ones who worked on the layout of the pages. The cover is nice, but the inside of the book is really beautiful. That gave my reading experience a bit of a kick.
Lit Snit Verdict: B (I do want to give this book an A, but I hold back because I feel it lacks a certain conventionality. Objectively speaking, I just don’t think everyone will see what I saw in it. So it’s a personal A and a Lit Snit B)