I'm big on setting in fiction, especially in books for kids. I think it adds a necessary element, grounds characters in an interesting place. I like reading books set in places I've lived or am at least familiar with. Plus I'm reading a lot of YA books for some reason. I have one assigned review, one I chose because I'm working with the writer, and this one because I'd heard so much about it.
So for many reasons, I couldn't wait to read Natalie Standiford's HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT.
And I loved it. Yes, it helped that my former home- Baltimore- is the setting, and since Natalie Standiford grew up there, she's nailed the city. The bookstore/ bar, the neighborhoods, even a high-rise apartment building filled with bluehairs (where I just happened to live for a couple of months, sans blue hair, many years ago). Even Morgan & Millard's drugstore/coffee shop, the first strip shopping center in America (1896), makes an appearance.
Using the late-night radio show as a device to move the story along and help us understand the characters was pure genius. What a teen-friendly way to write. Loved their on-air names: Kreplax and his Future People! What an oddball.
The story will appeal to kids, and this novel deserved its Cybil-finalist award. Two high school kids, mostly midfits, find each other. Ho-hum, you might think. Now that's been done before. But these two are so appealing, so unusual, that nothing you know about out-of-it high schoolers applies. Robot Girl and Ghost Boy (their radio names) defy all stereotypes.
It's a love story, a family saga, a tragedy, a mystery, a story filled with hope. One of my favorite Young Adult books of the year. I'm still scratching my head a bit over exactly what constitutes a Cybil Award-winning book, but don't we do that each year with all the awards? Some we love, some we hate. Some we feel don't deserve any acclaim at all. Criteria, like personal taste, seem to change with each year's new committee, and there's no changing that.
But HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT is a book kids will love, their parents will be happy to read, teachers will approve. It spans a very large reading area, wide appeal. Truly well-written, truly fun to read. All good!
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