Goodbye, Perfect – Sara Barnard

9781509852864Goodbye, Perfect tells the story of Eden, whose 15 year old best friend Bonnie has run away with a man. And not just any man; their Music teacher Mr Cohn. This is the first YA book I’ve read in 2018 and I actually loved it. I have to admit that it’s not something that I would normally have picked up myself, but a friend gave me the advise that it’s like Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre, which I also loved.

I really like the idea of the position that Barnard has put her main character, Eden, in. The focus of the book isn’t actually about what Bonnie has done, but about the impact that it has on those left behind, and the moral and legal arguments that surround it. I think the unbiased presentation of every side of the argument is very clever and demands empathy.

The story is mostly told through Eden’s first person narration, but there are visual conversations between her and Bonnie over text that just felt spot on. The book is split in to ‘days missing’ and has newspaper articles at the beginning of each chapter that sheds light on what society as a whole thinks about the situation too. This, along with the reflection on previous conversations that have taken on new meaning to Eden, keeps the pace of the story moving quickly.

The more I read the more I was thrown back to my teenage years, how you feel that you’re an adult because your own body and the world are basically telling you are. Even school is preparing you to be one. Except you don’t realise or understand the emotional responsibility that comes with that until you actually are an adult. I connected with the story instantly and felt a real nostalgia for the fierce loyalty and love I had for my best friend. I understood how I would have felt if she had run away too (I’d have told straight away, just for the record, I wouldn’t have been able to live with the guilt).

I can see the story from the other side too: how the parents must have felt, how outrageous that another adult could believe that running away with an underage girl was acceptable and even though Mr Cohn has very little voice in this book, it doesn’t matter. What he has done speaks volumes when he should be protecting the children he works with from people like him, and you can clearly hear his words in Bonnie’s voice.

The battle that Eden has in forming her own opinion is truly difficult. Does she listen to her best friend and feel that she is entitled to break out of her restrictive life and be happy with a man she believes she loves? Should she listen to her parents and know that  what Mr Cohn has led Bonnie in to is wrong, even when she feels that Bonnie wanted to leave? The overwhelming amount of opinion, and the fact that Eden is also dealing with being an adopted child, at the most stressful school time of her life with GCSE’s, it’s a wonder to me that she didn’t crack.

Goodbye, Perfect is a simple book in many ways, but it’s infinitely effective. It’s safe to say that I quite obviously loved the balance in the book, but I think this is because she has the angle of perspective in the story just right and Eden is a fantastic character.

Reviewed for Pan Macmillan.

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