Icelandic hairdressers are the happiest people in the world. Unfortunately for Beatrice Szabo, no one knows their secret. And Bea isn’t even a hairdresser, let alone living in Iceland in How to Say Goodbye in Robot (2009) by Natalie Standiford.
Bea is used to moving a lot thanks to her father’s professional wanderlust. But moving constantly is pretty easy once you stop getting attached to things like houses and gerbils. Finding herself in the familiar position of new girl in town (Baltimore this time) is nothing to worry about, especially since Bea knows it will only be a year before college when she can finally be alone.
It’s much worse watching her mother’s slow, embarrassing, breakdown and listening to her constant accusations that Bea is a hard-hearted robot.
Robot girls still have to go to high school where the alphabet conspires to seat Bea next to Jonah Tate–known to most everyone as Ghost Boy. A loner since the third grade, Jonah lives his life apart from the usual bustle and flow of his small private high school’s social circle.
Neither Jonah nor Bea are looking very hard for a new friend. Still they somehow manage to find each other through the unlikely common ground of a late night radio talk show featuring a quirky cast of regular “Night Light” callers. It isn’t a traditional friendship or the usual romance, but it’s definitely love.
The more Bea learns about Jonah and his tragic, lonely world the more Bea knows they need each other; that scary as it seems their friendship might finally be showing her how to be a real girl instead of a robot. But will one former robot be enough to make Ghost Boy into a solid Jonah? Do robots and ghosts even speak the same language?
Bea’s narration is a sharp-witted look at high school from an outsider’s perspective, but also something more. This book offers an authentic look at a type of friendshipnot often seen in young adult novels. There is a theory that in every relationship there is one person who loves a bit more–one partner who loves a little stronger. Standiford examines that kind of relationship in How to Say Goodbye in Robot.
Despite the seriousness of the core plot, this story is charming and surreal even at its grittiest moments. Like the Night Lights, Standiford creates a world here between waking and sleep where–if you believe hard enough–magic might be real and anything could be possible.
How to Say Goodbye in Robot is a beautifully written book. Standiford paints Bea’s simultaneously stifling and fantastical world with beauty and style deserving of its charming flap copy and enchanting cover.
Possible Pairings: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron, Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark, Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti, Last Night at the Circle Cinema by Emily Franklin, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider