Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

Annike: Hey guys! So, I’m back with a book review on a book that I read back in June! I know it’s been a while but I promised a review in our June Wrap – Up. I do want to say straight off; this book wasn’t my favourite book ever because I didn’t really think there was anything particular special or exciting about it but I figure I’ll tell you a little about the things I liked and didn’t like about it and let you decide for yourself whether to pick it up or not.

2/5 stars

30335560.jpgSixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef.
The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt.

When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears. Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything.

This book centres around a young girl called Petula who is 16 and struggling with her mental health after her sister died like 3 years earlier. Petula is plagued with a sense of guilt because her sister died choking on a button that she had sewed onto an outfit Petula made her. Some of the effects of Maxine’s death on Petula include an incessant sense of anxiety and worry. I know that this portrayal of her anxiety is something that was much disliked by myself and many other readers when I looked at a few of their reviews. One of the reasons that this is so, is simply because the anxiety that Petula has is simply shown to be little concerns about dying and her need to avoid certain areas and equip herself with reflective gear, a rape whistle etc. In reality, anxiety is of course none of this and is not simply being concerned about death but more a plaguing sense of unease and stress. While this may not seem like the biggest thing, I didn’t like the character of Petula too much in this way as it seemed unnecessarily unrealistic and almost fake.

Another reason that I wasn’t too keen on Petula as a character was because she acted much more childish than I think she should have. When I was reading, Petula sounded more like a 10 or 12-year-old rather than a 16-year-old. Then there came Jacob who was struggling with his own issues of guilt and took a liking to Petula straight away. I do have to warn you; this book has the major issue of INSTA-LOVE! And to be perfectly honest, this is something I can’t stand. I’m not sure whether it was the fact that I didn’t like Petula or she felt too young to me, but I could not like the relationship between Petula and Jacob in this book.

One thing I think I did like about the book was some of the other characters who were with Jacob and Petula in her art-therapy class. I liked Petula’s ex-best friend, Rachel simply because she was reasonable and relatively grown up. All the same, Rachel was really the only character who was introduced outside of art therapy which made me worry slightly for Petula who never seemed to interact outside her therapy group.

I think my last problem with this book was the complication, in which Jacob revealed his big secret to Petula and she simply left him because she was angry at what he did and how he had lied. To me there was 2 reasons that I didn’t like this at all.

  1. Because it was entirely too predictable and was obvious since the beginning
  2. Petula was entirely hypocritical to turn her back on Jacob after she pretty much did the same thing several years ago, under different circumstances.

Anyways, so just going over this I can see just how negative this review is and I’m really sorry about that I didn’t intend it at all! What I’m trying to say is that this book definitely was not for me because there was nothing very hooking or exciting however I have heard people who really enjoyed it so definitely give it a go if you are looking at it. If you have read it, let me know if you agree with me or if you really did enjoy this book!

~ A



  1. Pingback: Liebster Award
  2. Definitely not something I’d pick up. I hope that authors who decide to incorporate mental illness in their stories would make an accurate, even realistic, portrayal of it. Too bad this author didn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this one! And while I do understand your not loving the anxiety portrayal, I think there are many kinds of anxiety so I don’t think this one is totally unrealistic.
    The instalove, though, and her hypocrisy at the end might be deal breakers for sure…
    Great review, nonetheless! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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