It’s February! Yay! That means January is FINALLY over. I don’t know about you, but it felt like January was never going to end. The main reason that I couldn’t wait for February to arrive was the publication of a book I was incredibly excited for; Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard.
Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard
Publication Date: 8th February 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan / Macmillan Children’s Books
Format: Paperback, 300 pages
Synopsis: When I was wild, you were steady . . . Now you are wild – what am I?
Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn. Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts. As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.
As I had loved Sara Barnard’s’s previous books, Beautiful Broken Things and A Quiet Kind of Thunder, there was no question as to whether or not I would be reading her third novel Goodbye, Perfect. Of course, I would be! I had been counting down the days until the publication date until I spotted that my local Waterstones had put their copies out early. Naughty. Even though it was a week before publication, I couldn’t resist buying it. Just look at that gorgeous cover! I bought it on Thursday and started reading it on Saturday morning, finishing it on the same day.
The police arrive when I’m in the shower.
Eden and Bonnie have been best friends since they were eight years old. Bonnie, a straight-A student, lives for her exams and has never had a detention in her life. Eden sees her results as nothing more than letters and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. Eden knows she can rely on Bonnie to be the sensible one in their friendship. Eden knew Bonnie was seeing someone called “Jack” but she would never have imagined that Bonnie would run away with him a week before her GCSEs. You can imagine Eden’s horror when she learns that “Jack” is actually Bonnie’s music teacher, Mr Cohn. When Eden finds out where Bonnie is, she feels torn between keeping a secret for her best friend, or doing the “right” thing and telling the police.
Goodbye, Perfect deals with the very important topic of pupil-teacher relationships. I know this is a topic that will inevitably divide people, and to me, Sara handled it well. When I was 15, sitting my GCSEs, what would I have done if my best friend had run off with one of our teachers? I genuinely don’t know what I’d done, and I think I would have had a similar dilemma to Eden.
By telling the story from the perspective of Eden, the best friend, the relationship between Bonnie and Mr Cohn isn’t romanticised. In fact, there are a lot of excellent points raised by the people in Eden’s life as to why it’s not acceptable. I’m not sure if it was the inspiration for Goodbye, Perfect, but it reminded me of the high-profile case a few years ago when a young girl ran away to France with her maths teacher. Does anyone else remember that?
In terms of characters, I liked how Eden was adopted as I haven’t read many books featuring this type of family. I also loved the relationship between Eden and her boyfriend Connor, and how they remained a couple throughout. No arguments or dramatics, it was a sweet depiction of teenage romance. All together now, awwww. I would have liked to have had more scenes featuring Eden’s younger sister Daisy; there was a particular line of hers that had me laugh out loud. I also have to give a special shout-out to Eden’s big sister Valerie, she was incredibly sweet and supportive and I wish she had more scenes too. However, I have to say that I wasn’t keen on Bonnie. I felt that her limited interactions with Eden made her come across as childish and naive, yet she knew what she was doing was wrong, otherwise, she would have told Eden who “Jack” actually was, no?
Considering the seriousness of the topic at heart in Goodbye, Perfect you would think there would be little room to discuss anything else. In true Sara Barnard style, she manages to weave in issues such as academic pressure, teenage mental health, as well as including some honest and frank points about teenage relationships, and in particular, “the first time”.
Whilst Goodbye, Perfect hasn’t joined Sara’s other novels in becoming one of my favourite books, I definitely enjoyed it – if “enjoy” is the right word to use for this subject matter! In comparison to her two previous novels, it had a different feel to it. Even though it hasn’t become a favourite, I was absolutely glued to the pages, and I read Goodbye, Perfect in a matter of hours. I haven’t felt like this with a book for a while, so it was a joy to recapture that feeling. On a related note – I have just realised that my own GCSEs were nearly 10 years ago… wow, I feel old.
I would recommend Goodbye, Perfect to young teenagers, particularly those who are in secondary school. Goodbye, Perfect has some important discussions about boundaries and appropriate relationships, as well as looking at the pressures young people face at school to succeed in exams. I hope it opens a dialogue within schools and prevents this fictional storyline becoming a reality.
Will you be picking up a copy of Goodbye, Perfect?