Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard
|Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Compelling but also subtle story of a student who runs off with her teacher while making her best friend complicit. Lots to think about here and important readers don't rush to judgement. Challenging (and super) stuff from Sara Barnard.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: February 2018|
|External links: Author's website|
Edie McKinley isn't the world's greatest student. And she has a history of rebellious behaviour. But she has most of that under control now, with the help of her adoptive family, her lovely boyfriend and her best friend Bonnie, who is a straight A student with a bright future ahead. That is, until Edie wakes up one morning to find the police at her door. Bonnie has run away with her boyfriend, Jack. Bonnie has been very mysterious about Jack, even with Edie and Edie is about to find out why - Jack is none other than Mr Cohn, a music teacher at school.
Edie may not have known Jack's true identity but she does know something else - runaway Bonnie's whereabouts. Because Bonnie has been in touch by text. Loyal to her best friend, Edie is determined to keep her secret but, as more and more details come out about the relationship between Bonnie and Mr Cohn, it gets harder and harder to justify keeping quiet. At some point, Edie will have to choose...
Goodbye, Perfect will be quite the challenging read for many, I am sure. What do we think about the way Bonnie behaved? Well, we can probably forgive that. Under pressure to be the perfect student, always achieving good grades and never misbehaving, is it any wonder she falls for the faux right on-ness of her teacher? But what about Eden? Most readers will understand that Mr Cohn is not a romantic hero - he is an abusive man taking advantage of a vulnerable teenager. So what do we think about Eden, who could put an end to it all and doesn't even though she is aware of all this? Do we judge her harshly?
I don't think we do. In many ways, Eden is an unreliable narrator. She's fiercely loyal to her friend but I don't think this is really the reason she hides what she knows. Eden's own dislocation plays into her actions throughout this book. She spent years in the looked-after system before being adopted and this has left her both over-knowledgeable and woefully naive. She knows all the social worker lingo and she's hyper-aware of the parenting techniques used on her by her adoptive parents. But, at the same time, she lacks the self assurance a secure childhood in a secure family gives and is constantly misinterpreting the intentions of the people who are trying to help - her parents, her adoptive sister, the police. I don't think we can blame Eden for her missteps any more than we can blame Bonnie.
Goodbye, Perfect manages to be a subtly challenging novel while maintaining a good narrative pace and tension. There are multiple layers of intricate relationships and tensions to unpack but you never get distracted from the story as you read. And while the central storyline has clear closure, Barnard doesn't pretend that the loose ends left aren't legion. I think it will provoke strong reactions and I also think that is a very good thing.
Another girl taking another dangerous road trip features in the wonderful Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd. And The Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine is a brilliant novel in which Sam is also doing his best to get away from home and all its pressures.
You can read more book reviews or buy Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard at Amazon.com.
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