Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

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Macmillan, 2018. ISBN 9781509852864
(Age: Senior Secondary) Highly recommended. Themes: loyalty, relationships, friendship, choices, boundaries. Eden and her best friend Bonnie never seemed to have much in common but they have been best friends since primary school. They are both about to sit their final GCSE exams and both have little sisters; but Bonnie is a straight "A" student, head prefect, with parents who expect their perfect daughter to excel. Eden and her sister were adopted when Eden was nine as her addict mother could not look after them. Eden struggles at school but thrives in her garden, her own space where she has ownership, responsibility and can demonstrate achievement supported by her adoptive parents who are professional gardeners. The best friends have studied together, shopped together and shared the secrets of their hearts, or so Eden thinks until the police turn up at her house asking if she knows where Bonnie is. Eden had that morning got a surprise text from Bonnie saying she was running away with Jack, a secret boyfriend Bonnie had mentioned but who Eden thought was imaginary she was so evasive about him. The text also said "don't tell anyone" so loyal Eden denies she has any knowledge. "I didn't think twice about lying for Bonnie. As far as I was concerned, she'd asked, and I'd agreed, and that was that. I didn't need any more details or context. A promise is a promise, and a best friend is a best friend." p9. However it turns out that Jack is their music teacher, Mr Cohn, the relationship is a crime not only because he is her teacher but at fifteen and a half Bonnie is also under the age of consent. Everyone, especially the police find it hard to believe Eden knew nothing about the affair and she starts to question how well she really knew her friend and whether she is doing the right thing agreeing to keep their location a secret. Eventually Eden confides in Connor, her level headed reliable boyfriend and builds bridges with her older step sister Valerie and they find a way forward that does not compromise Eden's values. Issues of secrecy, betrayal of trust, loyalty, friendship responsibility and choices make this an important book for young adults who are entering a world where they have to make their own, sometimes difficult decisions. Through flashbacks entitled 'Conversations that took on a Different Meaning after Bonnie Disappeared' Eden sees she had missed signs that her friend had not had the perfect life she had imagined missing how unhappy Bonnie had been.
Told in the first person from Eden's perspective the text is enriched with newspaper articles sensationalising the affair along with social media posts all of which contrast with Bonnie's secret text messages which assert that she is happy and in love, seemingly oblivious to how her actions have affected everyone else. In the face of it all Eden struggles to do what she believes is right. With strong believable characters dealing with complex modern lives encountering real life decisions, this is a book that should be recommended to all senior students and it would lend itself to class discussion about any of the main themes.
Sue Speck