This is the third book by Sara Barnard that I read, and as usual, she did not disappoint. She has a way of writing about families and friendships that really gets to me every time, and I think her books really stand out in the YA scene. In Beautiful Broken Things, she addressed friendships and mental illness. In A Quiet Kind of Thunder, she presented us with a main character who had selective mutism, and one who was deaf. She also portrayed beautifully the family relationships as well as the friendships throughout the book. This year, she was back with Goodbye Perfect, this time featuring a main character who had been adopted, watching the situation unravel as her best friend ran away.
Title: Goodbye Perfect
Author: Sara Barnard
Genre: YA, Contemporary
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Eden has always been the one with an edge. When you don’t get good grades, you gotta have an attitude if you want people to thing you’re fine with it. Her best friend Bonnie was the one who cared about exams, who planned her revisions months in advance, who was an A star student, one the teachers considered a good influence on Eden. So when she runs away with her mysterious boyfriend right before their GCSE, everyone expects Eden to know where she is, and who she is with. But Eden didn’t know, and suddenly her world is losing its balance. She always thouhgt Bonnie was her best friend, and best friends don’t lie. How could she hide something so huge from her?
I absolutely love the fact that Sara Barnard always addresses sensitive topics in her books, and once again, she did it wonderfully. The characters and the story were extremely well-written, and I loved the family dynamics between Eden and her mom, as well as with both her sisters. Her storyline with Connor was also very sweet. She was a unique character, and one I really empathised with.
I am delighted to say that I went into this book not really knowing what to expect, only that I had to read it because I loved Sara Barnard’s previous books. I knew the story would be about friendship, and I really like where it went.
Now since you’ve seen the spoilers warning, you have been warned and I can proceed without second thoughts. The fact that Bonnie ran away with her teacher was something I completely did not expect but it gave the story a very serious dimension which I am totally here for. It was really fascinating to confront her point of view when she talked to that of Eden – and everyone else for that matter. But most importantly it was interesting to read from Eden’s perspective because she felt that what her friend was doing was wrong but she still wanted to help.
I loved reading about her relationship with her older sister Valerie, it was extremely realistic, and very satisfying to see them getting closer by the end of the story. It was also a sweet touch to see how much Eden loved gardening, and how important it had become in her life through her adoptive parents.
But back to the whole Bonnie adventure. The word “grooming” arrives quite late in the novel, but it’s clear that is exactly what happened, even if Bonnie doesn’t see it – and she’s the only one who doesn’t, in facts. Both girls are extremely realistic, in terms of Bonnie being so sure she is in love and living the greatest story of her life, while Eden is sceptic but still trying to help her best friend, while struggling in her relationship with her mother and her apparently perfect older sister. Even if the tone of the main plot was serious, the book was super refreshing because it was different from anything else I have read before. (And have I mentioned how sweet Connor and his family are?)
Now (more spoilers) I really liked the ending because it is proof that even when you try your best, it’s not always what people see. Valerie did try her best, and her choices where probably what she deemed the safest (and I have to agree with her). I was impressed by all the twists, and how she ended up siding with Eden before being “betrayed” by the police. And in the end, the fact the police tracked them allowed Eden to not bear the guilt – the only way I could see this unfolding was with the police catching Bonnie and Mister Cohn, and if they hadn’t followed Eden, maybe she would have decided to call them? But since she wasn’t aware that they were being tracked, she is free of that guilt, and I thought it was beautiful as well as realistic. And while I’m talking about the end, it was heartbreaking that Bonnie would refuse to talk to her again, but also realistic, and the fact that this experience brought Eden and her sisters closer really warmed my heart.
So overall, I was really impressed by this book. It went where not a lot of authors would dare to, and did not romanticize one bit the relationship between Bonnie and her teacher, and I’m clapping for that. (And yes, I totally refuse to call him Jack). Once again, Sara Barnard managed to write a YA book that is both sweet and serious, and I can’t wait for her next release! I feel like my review didn’t do this book justice, but if there is one more thing you need to remember, it’s that this book is proof that it is possible to write stories centered mainly on friendships, and that’s beautiful.