I read Goodbye, Perfect back in October of last year and, amazingly, reviewed it on Goodreads straight away — but since it wasn’t due to come out until February, I held off on cross-posting the review here. I’m finally getting around to it, and it makes me look almost punctual. It only took a few months…
Sara Barnard has a gift, which is that even when the premise of her book is completely unrelatable and doesn’t resemble my own life at all (e.g. your best friend running off with a teacher), she manages to make the feelings so painfully real that they hit all your own personal spots despite the circumstances being totally different. Like, who knew this would play into my very specific insecurities about friendships? Not me, but it did.
Her books also have a wonderful focus on friendship where it’s central to the story, whatever else is going on. This book has romance, although it’s established before the timeline of the book so there isn’t a need to dedicate time to watching it develop. This book also has sibling relationships and complex family dynamics, and they’re real and messy and deep — you could argue that it’s as much about those as about the central friendship between Bonnie and Eden.
But ultimately the story revolves around friendship and realising you don’t know someone as well as you thought you did. I don’t read enough books where the primary theme is friendship. Maybe I don’t read enough contemporaries, but most of the ones I do read have much stronger romantic elements.
Also, I think one of the reasons Barnard’s books feel real to me is because they’re British, and so I can relate to the very specific school pressures and experiences. Unlike YA books set in the US where I have to wade through things I don’t really understand like homecoming and spirit week and the SAT, there’s none of that baggage. GCSEs? Oh boy. Been there and done that. I, too, remember staring hopelessly at my Biology revision guide and wondering how to make the information go in. Though Eden must have sat a different exam board to me if the sciences were first — my science GCSEs were the last ones I took, right at the end of the exam period.
So, basically, what I’m saying is: I FELT this book. Even though I had no experience of 90% of the PLOT, I felt like I had experience of the feelings. Does that even make sense? It managed to universalise a very specific set of events by relating them to all sorts of feelings that people go through even if their best friend hasn’t run off with their music teacher. And that’s good writing.
I’ll definitely continue to seek out Sara Barnard’s work, because honestly, she’s one of very few UK-based YA contemporary authors whose books I’ve enjoyed without exception so far, even if the first one possibly had the most direct emotional effect on me.
Also, lest it seem like the book’s only strengths were its feelings, I actually really enjoyed the plot too. I thought I knew where it was going at one point, but it turned out I was wrong, and it’s always nice when that happens. It wasn’t exactly a twisty turny thriller — it’s not intended to be. But it’s also not the kind of contemporary that drifts through without a clear underlying focus because it’s only about characters. (Those books have their place! I’m not a big fan of them, but it can work.)
So yeah, I enjoyed this. I don’t actually yet OWN any of Sara Barnard’s books — I read the first one from the library and I’ve been lucky enough to have the other two as ARCs from NetGalley — but I ought to try and change that. They’re pretty and colourful and they give me feelings: what more do I want in a book?