Sara Barnard has quickly become one of my favourite authors – I’ve read both of her past YA books (Beautiful Broken Things, and A Quiet Kind of Thunder), and absolutely loved them. Her ability to create such complex and real characters is unique, and I was bouncing up and down to finally get to read her new book.
Goodbye, Perfect centres around 16 year old Edie, and her best friend, Bonnie. The story begins when, 5 days before the start of their GCSE’s, Bonnie disappears with her ‘secret boyfriend’.
Disclaimer: I’m not going to spoil it as such, but if you want to go into this book knowing nothing, stop reading now.
It’s not long before we find out that Bonnie’s ‘secret boyfriend’ is actually her music teacher, and everything suddenly becomes very serious. The story unfolds from there.
I’d never read about this sort of inappropriate relationship in fiction before, and I think the topics of power manipulation and grooming were handled really well. As an adult, it is very easy to relate to the parents’ perspective, because the relationship is clearly wrong, and they just want their kids to be safe. However, you mainly hear from the perspective of Bonnie and Edie and what’s going on in their teenage heads. Edie wants to keep her promise to Bonnie, and Bonnie is too infatuated to realise anything is wrong.
Barnard allows both perspectives to be heard. When you read about Bonnie saying that she is safe because she’s “in love”, my immediate thought was that she’s being naïve. But that’s the whole point. She is naïve because she’s still a child. It’s not portrayed as patronising, it’s just the reality of the situation. It really highlights the boundaries that have been breached, and the inappropriate power that Mr Cohn has over Bonnie. And Barnard does a great job of capturing the uncomfortableness of their relationship.
Barnard really has become my go to author if I want to read a book where the characters feel tangibly real. They have realistic quirks, complex history, and no side character or story is left untouched. For example, throughout the narrative, I really enjoyed learning about Edie and Daisy’s childhood and adoption. She is extremely good at capturing and portraying realistic families and the fact that the sisters all had different dynamics to each other felt so real.
If you want an easy but thought provoking read, definitely pick this one up (or any of her other books!)
Buy the book here!