How to say goodbye in Robot (by Natalie Standiford)

22 09 2010

‘Teen romance’ – not exactly a niche market within YA-fiction. therefore, it’s quite hard for a contemporary novel to end up on annual Top 10-lists. How to say goodbye in Robot is a quirky little novel, with one of the best titles I’ve heard in a long while,  but I don’t think it’ll end up on my Top 10 list. Good, but ultimately not quite memorable enough.

That said, the book does have all the elements of a good page-turner, and you feel you’re enjoying the book all the way through.

There’s the original layout, which does wonders to improve your reading experience.
There’s the difficult to categorize relationship between Beatrice – aka RobotGirl, who’s accused by her (chicken-obsessed polka-dot bikini-wearing) mother of being a ‘robot’ for not feeling sorry for the death of a gerbil – and Jonah, aka GhostBoy, dubbed this way by his classmates because of his knack for haunting the high school hallways ever since his mom and brother died in an accident. That and the fact that he’s as pale as ghost, of course.
There’s the nighttime radio show Night Light that Bea and Jonah faithfully listen to, with its share of oddball, yet completely unique and honest, callers.
There’s the tragic mystery about Jonah’s twin brother, Matthew (is he or isn’t he still alive, will Jonah reconnect with him, etc.).
There are disintegrating relationships aplenty:  between Bea’s parents, between Bea and her mother,  between Jonah and his father (who actually haven’t had a relationship to speak of since the death of Jonah’s mother).
There are the typical high school senior year antics, like yearbook, prom, etc…

It’s a love story, but then it’s not. It’s a family mystery, but then it’s not. It’s a reflective diary, but then it’s not. It is all of these things, and yet it’s hard to say why this book didn’t make the emotional impact on me that it apparently did on so many other readers.

Ultimately, good book, enjoyable, moving and touching, very human, yes it is all that… But it’s a bit like reading Michael Cunningham’s The Hours: you know it’s moving story that chicks will dig and guys will only secretly shed a tear about, but it’s ultimately just a bit of fluff, good fluff, but fluff nevertheless…

PS. Having been to Ithaca myself, I did get a kick out of Bea describing all the suicides at the Cornell campus , you know the gorges and all make it so easy…

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