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How To Say Goodbye In Robot Hardcover – October 1, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—Because of her father's academic career, Beatrice Szabo's family has moved multiple times, most recently from Ithaca, NY, to Baltimore. In order to protect herself from the emotional fallout caused by the constant moves and her parents' troubled relationship, she has invented a cold, emotionless persona for herself called Robot Girl. When she begins her senior year at a small private school, she enters a class where the students have known one another since kindergarten. She finds herself drawn to outcast Jonas Tate, aka Ghost Boy, who introduces her to the Night Light show, a local late-night radio show. They form an intense friendship, complicated by Jonas's obsession with his mentally disabled twin brother, whom his father had told him died in an automobile accident years before. When Jonas discovers that Matthew is actually alive and in a local institution, events gradually spiral out of control as Jonas plots to liberate him. Beatrice begins to realize that her deep love and friendship for Jonas cannot help him overcome all of his emotional difficulties. This is an honest and complex depiction of a meaningful platonic friendship and doesn't gloss over troubling issues. The minor characters, particularly the talk-show regulars, are quirky and depicted with sly humor. Teens will identify with the intense emotions of Beatrice and Jonas, the reasons they are drawn to each other, and the ups and downs of their relationship. An outstanding choice for a book discussion group.—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ END
The hot pink cover featuring a telephone dangling by the cord fairly screams teen romance! but might give the wrong impression of this quirky novel. Bea, the new girl in a school where most of the kids have known each other since kindergarten, befriends Jonah, an outcast deemed Ghost Boy after a cruel middle-school prank. She finds herself torn between normal highschool activities and spending time with Jonah, listening to the bizarre but engaging Night Light, a radio show haunted by some of Baltimore’s loneliest weirdos. Theirs is not a budding romance, but a tumultuous, hot-and-cold friendship; they love each other, but should never even think about a relationship. Credit is due to Standiford for the delicate portrayal of Jonah’s home life, which could have veered into soap-opera territory, especially with the reappearance of his long-thought-dead, mentally disabled twin brother. The heart of this novel is neither cold and metallic nor full of romance and delusion. Instead, it’s very human. Grades 9-12. --Courtney Jones
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Top customer reviews
This book is delightfully quirky, and it works. Some books go overboard with the quirks and thus become unrealistic, but the characters and situations rang true. This seems like a standalone book, but I'd love to read more about Bea and Jonah.
My decision to read this book was based almost entirely on stars. Star-ratings, that is, as opposed to any one particular glowing review. Because it seemed to me that while many people love this book, they couldn’t quite articulate why that was the case. Clues about the synopsis were vague (even the blurb offers little in the way of plot) but I persisted in seeing this distinctive pink cover (and, I’ve gotta admit, catchy title) popping up on ‘recommended reading’ lists everywhere I went. So I finally caved and bought the book, read the book, loved the book … and now completely understand people’s inability to wholly summarise Natalie Standiford’s quirky-tender novel of friendship.
Beatrice’s father is a college professor, so her family (consisting of herself, her mum and dad) move around a lot following his tenures. Beatrice thinks her latest new town will be more of the same, though perhaps more painful as she’s now joining a class of seniors who have all known each other since they were in kindergarten. There’s no reason for Beatrice to expect her stay in this town (the last, before she whisks herself away to college – hopefully in New York) no doubt she’ll make friends with the blandly popular girls, coast along in her classes and maybe attend a few pep-rallys. Except that on her first day at the new school she is assigned an assembly seat next to Jonah, otherwise known by all his long-serving classmates as ‘Ghost Boy’ … and Beatrice finds her life will never be the same.
Over a shared love of the fantastically kitsch and quirky late-night Night Light radio program, Beatrice and Jonah become close friends. Even while others look on in wonder and scepticism that long-time weird classmate has found such a normal friend. Jonah got the name ‘Ghost Boy’ after his young classmates decided to pretend he was dead, and come back to haunt them all as a ghost (oh, hilarious! The casual cruelty of primary-school kids).
In Jonah, Beatrice discovers a friendship that runs deeper than lust and ‘like’ – is not clouded by sexual attraction but a deep understanding of the other person, the finding of a soul mate.
There’s quite a lot going on, story-wise, in this book. But it’s hard to explain all the various threads without making them sound like a rotten jumble of yarn when, in actuality, the way Standiford lays them out in almost vignette style is rather masterful. There’s a thread about Beatrice’s increasingly erratic mother, obsessed with chickens and for some odd reason not at all coping with their latest house move. Then there’s the back-story about Jonah’s family, his deceased mother and brother. The plot is laid out by the months of Beatrice and Jonah’s senior year, and each connects to the over-arcing story with breaks in between for the scripts of the Night Light radio program (and the curious cast of characters who call the host for a chat). I don’t want to make it seem like there is no plot or ‘action’ to the story – there is, and it comes to a feverish climax that will leave some reeling – but the way Standiford teases out the story in an ebb and flow is quite something to read.
Beatrice is a fantastic protagonist. The title comes from a distraught comment made by her mother, about Beatrice’s muted emotions, after the death of a gerbil they knew for only a few hours. Beatrice is at once outwardly robotic, while internalising and worrying – she’s a cool kid on the outside, hectic within and a joy to read;
I did love this book, but I now understand people’s reluctance to delve into the story too much, lest new readers be denied the satisfaction of being pulled under by Natalie Standiford’s quirky-tender novel. Be like me and discover it for yourself.
This book has a desperate beauty to the friendship between Bea and Jonathan. The focus is definitely friendship, with dysfunctional families a close second. I don't think the friendship was a healthy one for Bea, but having a healthy friendship with someone as emotionally scarred as Jonathan would probably be impossible.
The characters were so real and so peculiar, in ways that didn't feel designed for their audience (whether that's the readers or the other people in the book). I don't think I'd particularly like Bea and Jonathan, or the things they did together. But I can understand wholehearted glee at something you connect with that just sounds weird when you try to describe it to other people (like the late night radio show they listened to), or dreading what everyone else is convinced will thrill you, and proving yourself right (like dating the most popular boy). A lot of stories about "weird" teens make them sound like they're rebelling for rebelling's sake. And lots of kids do. But in this case, it genuinely felt like Bea and Jonathan were being true to themselves, and were okay with being different because what everyone else liked would make them miserable.
This book made me cry. It was heart-wrenching.
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Natalie Standiford’s realistic young adult novel “How to Say Goodbye in Robot” centers around Beatrice Szabo, who just moved to Baltimore, MD and has...Read more