How to Say Goodbye in Robot, by Natalie Standiford, is the story of Beatrice Szabo and her very unique friendship with Jonah “Ghost Boy” Tate. Bea’s family moves all the time, so when Beatrice is told that they are moving to Baltimore for her senior year, she readies herself for yet another year of gossip and parties and shallow friends. Instead, she meets Jonah, nicknamed “Ghost Boy” by his taunting peers, and the two of them embark on a relationship that cannot appropriately be pinpointed by words such as “friend” or “boyfriend.” To Bea and Jonah, their togetherness is much more than that. It is sharing a love for a late night radio show, talking over beer and music in their favorite downtown hang out, and planning secret visits to Jonah’s sort-of-dead twin brother.
Quite honestly, I didn’t feel it. I liked the idea of a friendship above words and gossip and shallowness, but I felt that the author didn’t develop the characters or the relationship enough so that when the friends had a falling out, I didn’t care at all, really. When Bea’s parents had problems, I didn’t feel for them or for her. Overall, I got the impression of a sort of bleak world filled with chickens, greasy hair, and beer, and it was not a world in which I particularly wanted to stay. Not in a good way, either—some books paint a bleak world intentionally and the darkness can be powerful, but in How to Say Goodbye in Robot this was not the case. There were certainly a few touching moments, and the themes of loss and death and how thinking about them is not necessarily a bad thing were very nice, but I didn’t feel any sort of real connection with the characters.
I liked the never-quite-shot-down ideas of inhabitants from the future living in our time thread, and I found the radio show, The Night Lights, very sweet and quirky. I liked the idea that one could have a whole sort of radio community of friends, and that there can be friendship based on more than just gossip and the troubles of this world. Unfortunately, the author didn’t quite portray the sweet world of their friendship, so there was no basis to build off of.
If you care to do your homework and go all the way back to my Toad Hill days, you'll know what this means: How to Say Goodbye in Robot was a bit less than crinterprood.
And that's that.