Tuesday, 27 February 2018

A Review of Goodbye, Perfect

Goodbye, Perfect is a book by Sara Barnard, the author of Beautiful Broken Things and A Quiet Kind of Thunder. Eden McKinley has been best friends with Bonnie Wiston-Stanley since they were eight. Bonnie is a straight-A student but Eden struggles with schoolwork. When Bonnie runs away with her boyfriend, Eden is dragged into the police enquiry and media circus that follows. But her small lies of omission start to add up, and Eden questions if keeping Bonnie's secret is the right thing to do.

I think the best way I can describe this is that it reads like a grown-up Jacqueline Wilson novel. A lot of serious issues are discussed over the course of the book, including the way society treats teenage girls for their mistakes and keeping secrets. The idea of keeping secrets is drilled into us from birth, but some secrets are not good ones. There are secrets that are worth telling an authority figure/parent/someone you trust about, because they're necessary for the safety and welfare of yourself and others.

Eden is amazingly different for a book protagonist. She's not a fan of school, nor does she read a lot. She has dyslexia and is often considered one of the problem students. She was adopted after being in foster care for a while, because her mother was neglectful. But she likes to garden, she discovered her interest in it when she was adopted by the McKinley's. Because of Eden's background, family being not just blood is a constant theme. Carolyn and Bob are amazing and the exact kind of parents I want to be. Raising two children from foster care, they did need to be creative. There's also Valerie, their older biological daughter, who is trying so hard and Eden can't see how much she's trying. Daisy is Eden's biological sister, and she had ADHD and dyscalculia. As someone with "strongly suspected" ADHD myself, I did appreciate this, but I don't want anyone to assume that Daisy is a representation of everyone with ADHD. It was also good to see a protagonist in a safe, steady relationship from the beginning of the book.

I feel like I should mention something of Bonnie in this section, but Bonnie doesn't always feel like a fully realised character, instead of a plot device. While she's book-smart, she's not wise, lacking street-smarts and common sense. You find out over the book that Bonnie isn't as perfect as she seems. One of the big themes is that people do not normally have the perfect life they might appear to. In fact, the point where I connected more with Bonnie is when Eden explains how she's not actually always nice. But for much of the book, Bonnie is just the reason why the plot happens, instead of a character herself.

Some of the comments online about Bonnie were awful, and serve as a reminder to us that we should watch what we post online - we never know who might read it. Especially something like this, where friends and family are likely to search. Her relationship is never romanticised, but other people perceive it as such.

Also, Eden likes gardening. As in the Garden of Eden, I see what you did there. Her little sister, who she'd do anything to protect but also finds annoying, is called Daisy.

Another issue this book discusses is the labels we are given at school. Eden is 'easy' even though she hasn't had sex often. Bonnie is the nerd who no-one expected to do something like this. Eden and Daisy are both labelled as a 'problem' and 'difficult' and if that's all you expect to see when you look at a student, that's what you'll see and what's to prevent them from starting to live up to their labels?

My only criticism is a minor plot hole. Why didn't Eden think to google the name of the cat cafe immediately? It should be instinctive to most teenagers. Also, for a video game that you would play together, Portal is not the best pick. The first Portal game was singleplayer only. It's possible that Eden was playing, and Connor was looking over her shoulder. But the use of together implies multiplayer. It's possible that they were playing Portal 2, and Eden doesn't care to specify. But Portal is a puzzle game, and is not the sort of game where you could play it over and over again. Once you can solve the puzzles consistently, it loses it, because you don't get a new experience.

I would recommend this book to older teens and above who can appreciate the deeper themes. It was also nice to look back on my GCSE years, especially that hectic exam period.


  1. I've bene torn about whether to read this or not but your review is really good and I might try it!! I LOVED the author's A Quiet Kind of Thunder so I'm keen to read more by her...but pity about those plot holes. (But I do like when books discuss important/darker topics too because I think it's definitely needed.)

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, read it! The plot holes are more me being incredibly picky, especially the Portal one!