Review: Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Title: Optimists Die First
Author: Susin Nielsen
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publishing Date: February 21st 2017

Beware: Life ahead.

Sixteen-year-old Petula de Wilde is anything but wild. A former crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula shut herself off from the world after a family tragedy. She sees danger in all the ordinary things, like crossing the street, a bug bite, or a germy handshake. She knows: life is out to get you.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class with a small group of fellow misfits. Then a new boy, Jacob, appears at school and in her therapy group. He seems so normal and confident, though he has a prosthetic arm; and soon he teams up with Petula on a hilarious project, gradually inspiring her to let go of some of her fears. But as the two grow closer, a hidden truth behind why he’s in the group could derail them, unless Petula takes a huge risk. . .

My Rating:
3 Stars

My Review:
This is my first read by Susin Nielsen.  I won't lie, the title of this one is what sucked me in.  I thought it sounded funny and I would give it a try.  It didn't have the humor I was expecting. There were some good witty moments here and there but this one wasn't quite as light and fluffy as I expected.  Optimists Die First takes us into the mind of people who are struggling with the guilt that sometimes comes with losing someone close to you.

Petula struggles with her sister's passing, and blames herself.  Because of the way her sister passes, Petula has a hard time coping and struggles with paranoia and anxiety.  She has also vowed never to make a craft again, and pushed away her best friend.  She has developed all new phobias that cause her to cut herself off from the world.

 Jacob was in an accident before transferring to the same school as Petula.  He lost his arm in the accident and is very secretive about the accident.  He still manages to have an easygoing attitude, and tries to help Petula with some of her issues.

What I liked:  
The beginning of the romance between Petula and Jacob was sweet.  It started out as a tentative friendship and grew into more.  

I really enjoyed the different personalities of the people at her art therapy class too.  They were all misfits in their own way, but in the end were good for each other.  

The mom's crazy cat lady tendencies and the silly cat video.

What I didn't like:
Optimists Die First does have one of the things I hate the most when it comes to a story about a person suffering from anxiety; She meets a boy and she can magically "turn off" her anxieties.  I really hate that. 

The is a pretty big reveal towards the end of the book about Jacob, and Petula is not sympathetic AT ALL.  Given the circumstances, I really feel like she should be and could show some compassion but instead writes him off for a while.  By the end of the book she is STILL saying she can't even look at him the same way.  Really?

So, while I didn't hate the book, I still didn't love it as much as I thought I would.  You may feel differently about it though, so don't let my review deter you. 

* I received an ARC of this title via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own. *

Find It Here: 


  1. Oh I would have been sucked in by the title too. I would have thought it would have been funny too. I hate when a boy cures a girl!!! Glad you enjoyed it despite the issues. Great review!

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I still feel a bit let down by this one. I really wanted to love it. Like I said, I didn't hate it tho.

  2. Man, what a bummer. I remember putting this on my TBR because, like you mentioned, that title is great. This sounds much heavier than anticipated so I am not sure it's a "me" book after all.

    I hate the magical boy fixes all trope. Nooope. I am glad there was some about this you liked, though :)

    1. Yeah, it definitely wasn't as lighthearted and funny as I was expecting. I would have been okay with that if she wasn't all of a sudden better just by meeting a boy. I can't stand that! Drives me crazy. I think this one had the potential to be really good tho.


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