Published by Macmillan!
Eden and Bonnie balance each other out. Eden is wild, whilst Bonnie is sensible. Bonnie exceeds at school, whilst Eden… barely scrapes by. It is perhaps the reason these polar opposites become best friends in the first place. But then Bonnie does something entirely unexpected, breaking the mould they so meticulously squeezed themselves into, and Eden is left to pick up the pieces, to decide her own right from wrong. When Bonnie runs away to be with their music teacher, Mr Cohn, Eden questions just about everything; the authenticity of her friendship when a secret so monumental goes unshared, her relationship with her adoptive family, boyfriend and teachers. Most important of all, Eden has to decide where she fits in all of the chaos and decide, when push comes to shove, if she wants to live up to the stereotypes she has forced upon herself for so long.
Sara Barnard’s authenticity in her writing is really something. Having read both ‘Beautiful Broken Things‘ and ‘A Quiet Kind of Thunder‘, her dedication and commitment to accuracy is clear through her exploration of toxic friendships, communication, what being a teenage girl is really like and representation of honest sexual experiences. ‘Goodbye, Perfect’ nails it once again and continues the name Sara Barnard is making for herself.
From problematic relationships to the academic expectations put on teenagers, ‘Goodbye, Perfect’ covers just about everything young women have to deal with whilst battling the bullies, sexual pressures and trying to understand who ‘you’ is. And with Eden as our main character this story couldn’t be anything other than incredible. I loved Eden. She’s seen the worst sides of life living with her estranged mother and little sister, Daisy; going through the fostering and adoption process and coming out the other side as a pretty well-rounded, awesome individual.
She was such a gritty character who really held the plot line even though it didn’t entirely centre around her specifically. Having such a complex issue of grooming and unbalanced power dynamics in a relationship and seeing it from the viewpoint of someone watching someone else go through it was so intriguing in the way it, in turn, shaped and developed her as a person. The storytelling was so well crafted with the flashes of Eden’s past, as well as the collection of articles and contextualising past conversations between Eden and Bonnie that drew the connecting dots to current events within the book.
The representation of adoption and a non-traditional family unit felt to me really respectfully done (although of course I can’t comment) and opened the story up to insight into sisterhood between not only Eden and her younger sister, Daisy, but also Valerie, her adoptive sister. Their interactions felt so natural and realistic to me and warmed my heart when they learned to steadily open up to each other and share tender moments, as well as their secrets and mistakes. As one of five children, including three sisters, capturing the special bond between sisters felt close to my heart.
And, speaking of the different relationships explored, um hello Connor. Can Sara Barnard write a love interest I’m not completely head over heels for within the first page of their introduction? Probably not, no. The thing is, Sara doesn’t make the love interests A-holes in her books. Not to say they’re perfect or that all boys are nice (spoiler alert, there are plenty of sucky people in this world, so books should write about those, too), but Sara doesn’t focus her books around one half of the relationship royally screwing up and spending the latter half of the book making it up to them. Instead she writes relationships that, yeah, aren’t always completely faultless but that are still two people supporting and growing with one another, and that was really clear between Eden and Connor. He took her for what she was and could see beyond the cracks and hard persona she sometimes put up. In turn, she respected that, as carer to his mother, he couldn’t always be there for Eden 100% of the time. I loved them and my only criticism was that I could have read so much more about the time they managed to snag to be just them.
‘Goodbye, Perfect’? More like Helloooooo Perfect! This story perfectly highlights the absurd amounts of pressures put on teenage girls to excel in both their grades and relationships, and the resulting desire to shift and go a little bit wild. It’s attentive too, taking care to highlight problematic behaviours and in depicting raw, flawed, ultimately wonderful characters.
Thank you to My Kinda Book for this review copy!*
‘Goodbye, Perfect’ is out 8th February!