Rated Reads

How to Say Goodbye in Robot

by Natalie Standiford

Rated: High

The jacket flap of this book says it’s for those who have experienced “the wonderful, treacherous, consuming, meaningful world of true friendship.” With that in mind, I think I expected something profound, something deep, something … less angst-ridden. But then, it is a teen novel, and angst is the name of the game.

Bea Szabo has moved to Baltimore for her senior year. She’s moved a lot — her dad is a serial one-year-college-appointment professor — and so has some expectations about her new school. Then the alphabet conspires — the students have to sit in alphabetical order for assembly — to put her next to Jonah Tate, a.k.a. Ghost Boy, who hasn’t made a new friend since third grade. See, his mother and twin brother died in a car wreck, and he’s basically shut down. That is, until he meets Bea. Together these two loners find some kind of solace together in their not-quite-boyfriend/girlfriend-but-somehow-more-than-just-friends relationship. There are ups — the late-night call-in show that they both listen to, or the trip to Ocean City in lieu of prom. And there are downs — if you’re not really boyfriend/girlfriend, is it okay to go out with other people? Not to mention the fights and disagreements.

Standiford takes us on an interesting, if angst-filled, journey with these two. There are humorous moments, and the overall story arc, especially involving Jonah’s family, is intriguing. Unfortunately, it was one of those books where I just couldn’t divorce myself from my age and experience: I kept shaking my head because the two of them acted like the kids they are. Sure, I empathized: who hasn’t had an up-and-down relationship with someone, wondering if they’ll talk to you, wanting to help but being powerless. I understand feeling deeply, wanting more, and I even understand heartbreak. I just thought this all was a bit overmuch.

I have no problem with angst. But then, too much of a good thing is always bad.

Rated: High, for language and teen drinking and drug use.

— Reviewed by Melissa Fox

Melissa Madsen Fox's blogging career began in 2004 when she started Book Nut. Reading, reviewing and book blogging have taken over what's left of her life after being a stay-at-home mom to four rambunctious daughters and wife to a slightly- absent-minded professor of political science.

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  • How to Say Goodbye in Robot
  • by Natalie Standiford
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: