Skip to main content

Optimists Die First


Optimists Die First

Susin Nielson, the author of many books and writer behind some TV shows, has done it again with her new book called OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST. Nielson is no stranger to young adult writing and has written four original young adult novels already including WE ARE ALL MADE OF MOLECULES, THE RELUCTANT JOURNAL OF HENRY K. LARSON, DEAR GEORGE CLOONEY: Please Marry My Mom and WORD NERD, all of which sound like very intriguing titles, if you ask me. However, she’s not finished yet! --- like I said, Nielson has also written some TV show episodes including, but not limited to, “Degrassi Junior High” and “Degrassi High,” from which she got her start in professional storytelling.

"OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is a must read, and I am going to definitely recommend it to my friends….Prepare [yourself] for romance, crafting and cats --- and...expect to get an understanding of mental health and grief."

OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST tells the story of Petula de Wilde. Once an extreme crafter with a close friend, she changes following an absolutely horrible family tragedy. Now Petula has banned herself from practically anything risky, from walking through construction sights to using the elevator to looking on the bright side of life, hence the title. But she is not the only one affected in her family. Her parents now fight over every little thing and are shadows of the people they once were due to grief. Every week Petula has to go to an art therapy full of people she mostly dislikes and make childish art pieces. However, this band of irrational, irritating teenagers is full of people with their own stories and to tell, just like Petula.

When Jacob Cohen joins art therapy everything changes. Jacob and his prosthetic arm appear to be perfectly fine at first --- movie obsessed, but fine. Of course, Petula wants nothing to do with this new easygoing stranger. Unfortunately for Petula, the two get paired together on their English project and everything changes. Jacob and Petula start becoming closer and facing Petula’s fears, while helping the people in their art therapy deal with their guilt, stories and history. But there is one question: what about Jacob’s history?

I loved this book so much. OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is definitely one of my favorite books I have read. OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is a must read, and I am going to definitely recommend it to my friends. If there is one thing that could have been done better, some elements of the story were not as shocking as they could be. However, after that, I really have nothing but positive things to say about this book. My favorite character in this book was actually a big surprise to me: Ivan. At first, he seemed very irritating, but then he slowly became a favorite character of mine. Another thing I loved were the cats. I love cats, and I love literature, so it was a purrfect fit. What I did not realize I would get from OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST was all the sadness. The book did have some hilarious laugh-out-loud moments, but it is honestly a very sad book.

This book is for people who love the contemporary novels. Readers who enjoy Rainbow Rowell, Sarah Dessen, John Green and Louise Gornall will probably love OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST. Teens who read this book should prepare themselves for romance, crafting and cats --- and need or expect to get an understanding of mental health and grief.

Reviewed by Rebecca D., Teen Board Member on February 21, 2017

Optimists Die First
by Susin Nielsen

  • Publication Date: February 20, 2018
  • Genres: Family, Fiction, Humor, Young Adult 14+
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ember
  • ISBN-10: 055349693X
  • ISBN-13: 9780553496932