TITLE: Goodbye, Perfect
AUTHOR: Sara Barnard
RELEASED: January 29th, 2019; Simon Pulse (US re-release)
AGE RANGE: YA
If there’s one thing in life Eden can count on, it’s her best friend, Bonnie—until Bonnie runs away with their music instructor, and everything gets thrown into a whirlwind of police interrogations, suspicion, and fear. The worst part is that Eden knows where Bonnie’s gone, but how can she betray her best friend?
If there’s anything I enjoy in the YA contemporary genre, it’s conflict—especially when the drama going down is something that real teens face, and especially when it’s a topic that authors aren’t often willing to tackle. A lot of authors could write a similar story and keep it black and white—girl’s best friend runs away, girl tells police, best friend is brought home, pedophilia is vilified, and that’s a wrap. That’s not Sara’s style at all.
“Do you ever think about just… running away?”
The thing is, there are two huge obstacles to Bonnie’s coming home, and we’re reminded of them often: 1) Eden feels a duty to protect her best friend, because what 15-year-old doesn’t think they’ve got things figured out? and 2) Bonnie ran away with her teacher. She wasn’t taken kicking and screaming; she’s been groomed by this powerful, attractive, seemingly ‘caring’ figure in her life and he’s convinced her they have an entire life together. Bonnie doesn’t want to come home, so how can Eden force her to?
There’s blood, and then there’s family. They’re not always the same thing.
I really appreciated that Sara was willing to go there, without ever making it seem as though what was happening was anything less than awful. Her approach is incredibly refreshing and necessary in its honesty, which might be my favorite thing about her writing as a whole. On top of that, Eden is biracial (white/Brazilian), adopted, dyslexic, and struggles in school—all of this leading up to a phenomenal commentary regarding how different the media would be reacting to the entire situation if the girl in question weren’t a white, able-bodied, middle-class girl with perfect grades like Bonnie.
“I think that’s what love is. It’s caring about the person’s entire life, not just the bit with the two of you in it.”
Besides the genuine way she approached the topic at large, my other favorite thing about this whole story was Eden’s boyfriend, Connor. Sara writes the sweetest, softest boys as love interests and Connor is just so wholesome and precious and loving. I adored the fact that his steadiness contrasted so starkly against the ridiculousness of the situation Eden had been forced into; likewise, her adopted parents are flawed but mostly wonderful, and I loved the support system Eden had in place.
Unfortunately, while I enjoyed Goodbye, Perfect very much, it just wasn’t quite a home run for me! I’ve actually sat on this review for a few days in hopes of nailing down why it never hit 5-star status, and I’m still not sure, but I had the same issue with my other read of Sara’s, A Quiet Kind of Thunder. She writes lovely characters and plots, but something about the stories never fully “wows” me.
That aside, this is a quality contemporary read that I wholeheartedly recommend checking out for yourself. I know Sara Barnard is going to continue being an author I reach for time and time again because I trust her to craft really enjoyable stories that perfectly straddle the line between heavy and comforting, and I can’t wait for my next read of hers!
I’d recommend this, and any of Sara’s other works, to anyone who enjoys YA contemporary releases and is looking for a healthy mix of conflict and fluff.
Content warnings for pedophilia, grooming, mentions of child pornography, abduction
All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Simon Pulse for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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