How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Scholastic Press, 2009, 276 pages
YA Realistic Fiction
Life as a “faculty brat” isn’t easy for Bea. She’s tired of moving and frustrated with the strange behavior her mom has taken on. Meanwhile, Bea’s dad isn’t doing much better — he continues to distance himself from the issues, leaving Bea in the dark. When she moves to Maryland, things get worse, but at least this time she’s making some friends. Jonah, or Ghost Boy, is one of those friends. And Bea, along with her classmates, can’t quite figure him out — that is, until she starts listening to Ghost Boy’s favorite radio show.
Much like Nick Carroway in The Great Gatsby, Bea finds herself as an observer of much of the plot, rather than a main player. Certainly she assists Jonah in his journey and comes to have a sort of internal journey herself, but reports many of the events with Jonah at the center. Apparently a single child, Bea watches Jonah struggle with what it means to be a sibling. Standiford brings forth interesting questions regarding the amount of responsibility siblings “should” have for each other, how parents fit into that relationship, and to what information siblings are entitled. Bea also explores dating and popularity and, through her relationship with Jonah, is able to compare popularity to isolation.
Even as the protagonist of How to Say Goodbye in Robot, Bea edges seriously close to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype, if not embodies it entirely. While she has troubles of her own and is interesting as an individual, her purpose in the novel largely comes down to what she can do for Jonah and his journey. As a feminist, I took some issue with this, but was glad to see there were some issues Bea owned that extended beyond her relationship with Jonah (though there may have been some symbolism in parallels). Standiford achieves her goal in making Jonah impossible to pin down for the majority of the novel. Interestingly enough, while Bea is very much a MPDG, Jonah may be some kind of male equivalent. A number of minor characters really brought color into this novel, giving the text a distinct flavor, paired with a minimalist writing style that served to enhance, rather than pare down, characters.
Pieces of the novel were predictable, though others were not. As much as I dislike comparing YA novels to John Green novels (it seems to be an unhelpful fad, except in a few cases), I will here: the plot structure was similar to what you might find in one of Green’s novels, as were the characters and the general atmosphere — though the writing style was much more simplistic (and arguably more effective). If you enjoy Green’s books, this novel is probably a good bet for you.
❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤