Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Book Review: How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford

How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford

Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1st edition (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545107083
ISBN-13: 978-0545107082
Source: Bought at Borders
Cover: I didn't get the significance of chorded phone until I read the novel. I liked this cover initially.Most photos wash it out but it's this really deep pink that reminds me of those Runts fruit strawberry shapes. It's a really attractive color and the almost pale black lettering and phone look beautiful against the rich pink cover. I think this one is a win!
First Sentence: "Goebbels materialized on the back patio, right before we moved to Baltimore, and started chewing through a wicker love seat."

The Mini-review: You'd have to be something more cold than a robot for this book not to move you. It's funny, brilliantly written, heartbreaking and a little insane.

Here's the Blurb from the Cover Jacket:

Icelandic hairdressers are the happiest people in the world. Bea is not an Icelandic hairdresser. Neither is Jonah. But together, they might find something approaching happiness.

New to town, Bea is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. You know the type: very cheery, very friendly, very average. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet observer who hasn't made a new friend since third grade. He's not a big fan of people in general... but he's willing to make an exception for her. Maybe.

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 from 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 a romance, exactly -- but it's definitely love. And it means more to them than either one can ever really know...

The Review:

Don Berman: DonBermanDonBermanDonBermanDonBermanDonBerman!

Now that that's off my chest (those who have read the book will get it, those who haven't should read the book so you'll get it too), on to the review.

Bea lies in bed fantasizing about her own death to help her go to sleep. I lay in bed dreaming about Bea and Jonah and the other fantastic cast of characters in How To Say Goodbye In Robot. I knew the moment I finished the first chapter that this book was going to be something special and it held true to the last word.

Opening the book up and coverflap
Someone at the publishing house must have thought this novel was a beautiful as I did and strove to show us that even through the pages. This book is full of beautiful colored pages and the details weren't unnoticed. I took a few photos of the novel just to prove it.

Bea was a fantastic protagonist. She was a little corky, her favorite thing to do being to pose herself and her mother in old movie stills and snapping photos, but her corkiness truly made this novel outstanding. She didn't have any preconceived notions that got in the way of her being generally nice to everyone. She didn't really judge those around her, she may not have understood the things they liked or talked about, but she didn't look down on them. She knew she has her issues too. I loved this about her and it made me want to keep reading. When she met Jonah, there was instantly this attraction there (not in a romantic way, just in the way two people are drawn together). They were each the missing halves to a bigger whole and together, they could make life livable and even a little fun by calling into a late night radio station that specialized in magic carpet rides and the future, by ditching prom to do it their style out in a Big City and by listening to each other.

One of the title pages
Jonah got a bit overbearing for me. There are these moments where he the sweetest, most thoughtful human being in the world and then for no reason (well, we find out why but it didn't make it any better for me), he'd just turn off and go completely cold on everyone. I loved his unique, intelligent character but I hated the way he treated Bea at times and I hate that Bea let it happen. It's odd really. The thing I loved about Bea was also the thing that made me mad when she wouldn't stand up for herself. But just like everything else, you usually can't have both.

Because of Bea's nonjudgmental (robotic) outlook on life, the other character were great getting to know too. Her mother is falling apart and wacky, professing chicken as the solution to almost every problem and her Dad really is a sweet guy when he isn't busy with work. Even the girls she meets at school aren't all bad. Bea just doesn't like the same things as they do.

Another title page
What really shines though is the radio show. It provides a mix of strangely wonderful characters that make you laugh and are sometimes a little sad. Through this late night show we meet the smooth talking Herb who hosts and is in general pretty accepting, Kreplax who claims he's traveled to the future, Myrna who obsessed with (and often sees) Elvis's ghost, Larry who lets the old tunes he plays speak for him and of course, the troublemaker Don Berman. Through experiencing these characters, Jonah and Bea fall into something like a friendship.

Standiford's writing is easy to read and she's believable as Bea. No details goes left untouched. Everything has a reason and comes to back into play which is so important in a slightly random and spontaneous novel to bring in the depth. And depth comes in by the truckload by the end of this novel.

The first chapter. Most chapters look like this.
There are some plot points I don't want to ruin but I will say that for as much wonderful spontaneity and uniqueness, this novel packs some pretty hard punches. By the end, my gut felt like it had dropped out from under me and I didn't know how I (or Bea) could possibly put it back together.

Meeting these wonderful characters is a pleasure, watching them come together to try to find happiness is a joy and experiencing where that leads is so beautiful and heartbreaking it's hard to stand. If this book were a radio station, I'd be calling in every night and praying the words find me even after I'm fast asleep.



  1. sounds like a great read- the book looks gorgeous!

  2. I'm a new visitor to your blog, and I love the name!

    I'm not usually into YA novels too much, but I've found that I've been reading more of them lately, and liking them! Might have to put this one on the list!

  3. Allison, this book melted my cold, cold heart. Seriously, it was an amazing read and I'd recommend it to anyone as long as you don't go in expecting to read a YA romance.

    Coffee and a Book Chick, if you're going to read a YA novel, this is one of them to get. I really enjoyed it and it touched me in ways I haven't fully understood yet.

  4. I loved this book. It was one of the strangest books I've ever read, but it was was wonderful. I wish there was a radio show like that on the air in my town.
    Alison Can Read

  5. You've convinced me! Awesome review!

  6. The Know-it-all has awarded you the 'One Lovely Blog' Award! Details here: Congrats! ~The Know-it-all

  7. I'm hoping to read this ASAP. Great review! :]


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