With such an attention-grabbing title, how can I NOT blog about it? Plus it received starred reviews in School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and just about everywhere else you can star reviews.
Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen
Vancouver teenager Petula de Wilde is aware that her personality is the very opposite of her last name. Since her sister died two years earlier, Petula constantly washes her hands, avoids construction sites (lest she get killed by falling stray metal), and scours the Internet for articles on random and accidental deaths to add to her scrapbook. She no longer pursues her many (more optimistic) craft projects, nor does she speak to her former best friend. Things begin to change after a new boy with a prosthetic arm shows up in her mandated art therapy classes. Jacob is gregarious, confident, and determined to make Petula come out of her shell. His enthusiasm for life and his ability with a camera pull them together and allow them both to heal, but is Jacob all that he seems? Will Petula and the other art therapy students be able to help Jacob as much as he has helped them? Nielsen has created a compelling, precociously paranoid protagonist and a bevy of wisecracking, heartwarming characters. But perhaps the novel’s greatest strength is its handling of the characters’ very real burdens with sympathy, wit, and not an ounce of melodrama. Nielsen excels at depicting troubled, clever teenagers in familiar environments. VERDICT Readers who are looking for a darker, more urban, but similarly hopeful Sarah Dessen novel will find it in this poignant book. (School Library Journal)