Review: Optimists Die First, Susin Nielsen

Being the average pessimistic person, I felt like reading this book could be eye-opening, and really refreshing. I haven’t read that many stories with pessimistic characters, up to the point where Petula, the main character of this story, is. See, she collects stories about how people tragically die, she can’t walk past construction sites because there might be a chance something would fall on her, or take an elevator because she had read too many stories about that just as well. Petula wasn’t born that way, her baby sister’s death, whom she feels guilty for, made her look over her shoulder constantly, and only half-living because of the constant worrying and pessimism.


From what you can guess already by reading this and the synopsis of this book, this is a young adult contemporary, very character-driven story. There is not heart-stopping action at all, it’s more of a life-story events, but the character growth is stunning – if you enjoy books like that, I’d definitely advice you to pick up that one. I can’t and won’t talk too much about the plot because, if there are obviously some kind of actions and revelations driving the book forward, as I said before, it’s more about the characters here.

Every character in the story was interesting and well-thought-of, with their own life stories, quirks and flaws – this was definitely one of the strong suits of this book: how flawed and realistic the characters were.



β€œBut now that I see all this and realize I couldn’t even have dreamed any of it because it was all so far off my radar, I have this weird uncomfortable twinge in my chest. Because . . . what else haven’t I bothered to dream, not thinking things could get any better?”

As you guessed it now, Petula is a very anxious and pessimist teenager. If, at times, her anxiety was relatable – speaking out, trying to reach out to new people, simply being anxious about working in pairs -, at other moments I felt like it wasn’t too realistic. But before heading into that part of the review, let’s talk about THE BOY.

See, there’s a boy in this story – name’s Jacob, new guy at school, had a weird metal hand and doesn’t speak much about what happened to him before he arrived. Upon his arrival and as the two of them are forced to get closer thanks to an assignment, Petula changes, and their relationship evolves in a very obvious, yet interesting way. There is no insta-love here at all, which was refreshing to read about: their relationship slowly builds up and grows, from strangers to friends to more than that. Slowly, we realize that this relationship the author is painting is one where they bring out the best in each other, which is on the one hand, super cute, but on the other hand, a bit unrealistic because…

Well, Petula manages to slowly get rid of her anxiety and it’s all because of this boy. It seemed a bit to me like a β€œlove cures everything” kind of trope, which I moderately enjoyed. However, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy their interactions, and toward the ending, the evolution of their relationship felt very realistic as well, tackling interesting and deeper issues you can’t always find in teenage romances, such as losing and gaining someone’s trust again.


If you love contemporaries and books giving a great deal of time and space to its characters, then I’d definitely recommend Optimists Die First. If a couple of things in the story felt unrealistic, the characters and their relationships were very real, and got me smiling more than once.

Final rating:Β  4 drops!

A million thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free digital copy of this book. This did not, in any way, influence this review.

Β Do you want to read Optimists Die First? Share your thoughts in comments!

Susin Nielsen, Optimists Die First, Β Published by Andersen, March 2nd 2017.

Β goodreads-badge-add-plus-fad3b68d35050280ea55d50f17c654b5


Life ahead: Proceed with caution.

Sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt.

When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears.

Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything.

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Book blogger, travel blogger, writer. πŸ“š |🌍 | πŸ’ž Writing & Communications Graduate. French. Living on love, wanderlust and ya books.

40 thoughts on “Review: Optimists Die First, Susin Nielsen

  1. How have I not heard of this book yet? I’m definitely adding it to my list of books to check out. I love character driven stories with plenty of spectacular character growth throughout the novel, so I’m not going to miss out on this one. You wrote such a lovely review for the book – I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I’m so glad, thank you so much Kelly! I really hope you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did when you get the chance to read it πŸ™‚


  2. I’m a pessimist as well. Better to expect the worse and be pleasantly surprised that expect the best and be constantly disappointed. I’m not a pessimist to the same degree as Petula though, and honestly I can’t imagine living my life that way either.
    Still this sounds like an amazing book Marie, and one I am definitely adding to my to-read list after reading your review for it. πŸ™‚ I love character driven books if they’re written well and from the sounds of your review that seems to be the case with this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t imagine living that way. I know I’m a pessimist, and I try and work on it at times, but…being to that degree sounds a bit extreme and well, depressing ahah.
      Thank you so much, Beth! I really hope you will enjoy it when you get around to it πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooh, this sounds really interest! I too am a pessimist, but I think it’s really *interesting* when characters are full-blown pessimists because of trauma. And yes, it’s quite unrealistic in novels where all the issues are solved by LOVE. Great review, Marie! πŸ™‚

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  4. This sounds like an interesting read. Although I haven’t read much, hearing about these, as you put it ‘love-cures-all’ storylines, I think that sometimes they seem unrealistic. However I also think that sometimes just loving someone and being there for them can help, not cure but help. Although I suppose people like to believe that it can be that simple. Anyway this does sound like the kind of book I might enjoy, I’ll have to look into it πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so, so much Holly! It is a bit unrealistic because as much as we’d like it to be, love can’t cure everything – but it definitely helps indeed, I agree with you πŸ™‚ ❀ I hope you'll want to read it, and enjoy it as much as I did πŸ™‚

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  5. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this one! Character driven stories can be so great. And yay, no insta-love! I love developed romances. The boy helping her to get rid of her anxiety though… the concept is used often enough, but like you mentioned, it’s not very realistic. πŸ˜‚ Lovely review, this book seems like a really good contemporary. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so, so much Analee! ❀ I really liked the characters in that one, I wish the boy didn't have this magical ability to cure her ahah, but otherwise it was really good πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m definitely more of an optimist who worries about the outcome of things while also hoping that it’s the best outcome, if that makes any sense. But I really like the sound of this book! I love character-driven stories and even though I’m not a big fan of the ‘love cures all’ trope I have a feeling I would really enjoy this book. I’ll be adding it to my TBR for sure. Great review as always, Marie!! πŸ’•πŸ˜Š

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  7. I liked the idea of a pessimist character, because I’m in the group too!! πŸ˜€ But then the anxiety being cured by a boy? I’ll pass or this book might end up thrown through the window!! Love doesn’t cure, doctors do! I can’t believe books still spread that message. Is it a way to make readers hopeful? Yikes! But awesome review my Sweechie!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey, Marie! Such an excellent review and I have to admit, it has piqued my interest!

    I read something similar last year and it was one of my favourite reads of 2016! Have you heard of Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes? I loved it and it dealt with anxiety and being constantly paranoid/worried of something bad happening. You should really check it out if you haven’t heard of it πŸ™‚

    Also, I love character driven stories. It’s so rewarding for the readers to root for a character that undergoes growth throughout the book!

    Thanks for the recommendation, Marie ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you so, so much Kevin, so happy to hear you’re curious about this book.
      I haven’t read Girl Against The Universe but heard a bit about it before – knowing that you loved it makes me want to read it now, thank you so much for this rec! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, happy you liked it! πŸ™‚ I hope you’ll still want to check it out, despite this little drawback, it was a very cute and fun read πŸ™‚


  9. Although the book title is catching in it of itself, I was pitched this book by a seller — and regrettably — still haven’t read it (but want to since it seems rather short!)

    I feel as though I can totally relate to this though. I err on the side of pessimism just so I won’t be let down if something goes astray!

    Unfortunately, I am a bit disappointed that this love cure-all is taken to the extremes as you’ve mentioned, but alas, I still do [have to] read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a short book, I read it very quickly! I could relate to this just as well, being such a pessimist about things – but not to the extreme like the character in that book is. I hope you’ll read and enjoy it, and thank you, Joey! πŸ™‚


  10. The characters in this book sounds wonderful! I do have issues with the Love Cures All trope as a concept, but I generally accept it when I read about it – so I might enjoy this one? Thanks for sharing such a detailed review!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oooh- I haven’t heard of this book before, but it sounds right up my alley! I adore character development, and you’re right, I haven’t read many books where the protagonist is a pessimist. Personally, I don’t mind the “love cures all” troupe if it means happiness. After all, I think we need the occasional unrealistic happy story to keep our own spirits up. I’ll definitely have to check this out. Thanks for a wonderful review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OH I agree with you, we all need books to make us smile and have happy endings and make us feel good overall. I really hope you’ll check this one out and love it Jackie! Thank you so much πŸ™‚


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