Natalie Standiford–How To Say Goodbye In Robot

The What: Bea finds herself starting her senior year of high school in Baltimore. Her father is rarely home, her mother is acting increasingly bizarre, and her classmates are not future friend material. Then she meets Jonah, whom her classmates call Ghost Boy. As she learns more about his bizarre past, their lives become more and more intertwined. But are they friends? Girlfriend and boyfriend? None of the words seem right, and yet they mean so much to each other…

The Good: Standiford has a gift for showing brokenness. Whether it’s parental connections, friendship, romance, or simply Bea’s own ability to cope with her sadness, Standiford convincingly shows dysfunction. I was deeply moved by the AM radio crew and by their efforts to buoy each other up. Also, to reverse my usual complaint, there is a marvelous balance of showing and telling here. The writing is some of the best I’ve encountered in YA lit-land.

The Meh: This story is a fantastic ride, but it took a good 70 pages to get rolling. For a book that is 276 pages long, that’s an awfully long warm-up lap; the strongly episodic feel and slow pace of the book will not appeal to “story” readers.

Hand It To: Character and language readers, quirky teens.