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Optimists Die First

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  4,273 ratings  ·  811 reviews
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
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 21st 2017 by Wendy Lamb Books
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Karin No. There's a little romance that gets squashed pretty quickly for a very good reason.…moreNo. There's a little romance that gets squashed pretty quickly for a very good reason.(less)

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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  4,273 ratings  ·  811 reviews

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Hailey (Hailey in Bookland)
A good story, just not for me. I didn't care for the characters, the plot moved way too fast. I don't know I was just bored!
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: starred-2017, ya, 2017, 3
There is nothing original about this story. Nothing at all. You've read it before. You'll know the "twist" from the start.

But, some books with unoriginal plots just have more life in them. I liked the narrative voice, I liked the humor, the cats, the crafts, the characters.

Susin Nielsen must have a better book in her. Surely her charm can be applied to a better/newer story? I'll check out more of her writing.
Jen Ryland
Serious mixed feelings. On the positive side, I really, really related to Petula's situation. A terrible family tragedy has made her fearful and wary. I'm not a therapist (and she's not real) but it seemed to me that her grief and guilt triggered (or worsened) some underlying anxiety/OCD - she's severely germaphobic and has intrusive thoughts about more bad things happening.

I'm not familiar with this author, but at times this book felt to me a little like a Canadian Sarah Dessen - troubled prota
Aj the Ravenous Reader
Some books you connect with so easily like they’re long lost friends and this book is certainly one of them. The book cover alone already attracted my attention like a magnet. There’s something so riveting about the title including the way it was written in cross stitch with that little addendum below that says “Life Ahead:Proceed with Caution”. It’s just so funny, smart, sarcastic and true all at the same time which is kind of also true of the entire story and not to mention quite heartbreaking ...more
Ashley Daviau
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up on a whim at the library because the title made me laugh. Little did I know that behind the hilarious title was a brilliant story! I didn’t expect to have this tug at my heart strings like it did, it made me feel the full gauntlet of emotions. From crying to laughing to annoyance and everything in between, this book made me feel it. Something about Petula and her story just grabbed at me and wouldn’t let go, I felt like I was living out her grief and guilt with her and it made f ...more
Oh man, this book. I'm so glad I requested this book.

Optimists Die First is not a very long story, but that's not the only reason why I read it in one take. From the very first page, in which the author dedicates the book to her fellow crazy cat ladies, I was hooked. Even before that, when I read the title on NetGalley, I was hooked.

There were so many things where I felt like someone had cast a magnifying glass upon me and wrote a book about it: volunteering at a cat shelter and wanting to take
Tink Magoo is bad at reviews

Behind the cat poop, crochet vests, bionic arms and quirky array of characters this book had so much heart and I honestly feel like this could help a lot of people. Guilt can ruin people's lives and unless you've experienced that it's hard to understand.

There wasn't any teen drama or mean bitches, which makes a nice change in this genre. Every single one of the seemingly outlandish characters grew through the story and were made relatable thanks to the humorous writing. Even if you don't look as
Apr 03, 2017 rated it liked it

An ARC of Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen was provided to me by Goodreads through their first reads program. This does not effect my opinion in any way.


Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars


This was the first ever book I have won through the Goodreads First Reads program and words cannot describe how excited I was when I was told that I had won! Optimists Die First had been a book that was on my radar for a little while and I was so excited that I was finally going to be able to read it! I hadn’t rea
Jan 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs, stand-alones
This book was short, sweet, and a teeny-tiny bit heartbreaking. It reminded me of Jeff Zentner's work, and that is literally the highest praise coming from me. Petula was a really cool character, with her love of craft, all her phobias and the masses of cats that spill from the pages.

The one issue I had with Optimists Die First, (and it's not even an issue really, because I didn't enjoy the book any less), is that the characters seemed like they were 12-13 years old in one chapter, and 17 the n
Erin Clemence
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Petula is a 16 year old girl who has shut herself off from the world after the death of her younger sister. Petula reluctantly attends counseling and art therapy classes with an eccentric group of misfits she feels she has nothing in common with. When Petula meets Jacob, the boy with the “bionic arm”, she slowly starts to trust again and begins to let the world back in. However, when she learns the truth about Jacob she is forced to decide if she can love a liar- even if the liar saved her life ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
Optimists die first is a forgettable, unoriginal, tropey YA romance. I would give a synopsis but I can barely remember a thing about what went down in this book. Maybe that’s my fault for waiting over a month to write a review but isn’t the point of a book to leave a lasting effect?

I usually write reviews 6 months later and I’ve literally never had this problem before. I don’t have a photographic memory or anything, those other books were simply just doing their job better.

When I was reading t
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh man this book. I have never personally related to a character so much. Petula worries about everything making worst case scenerio plans for everything. I can so easily identify with this as I do the same all the time my logic being actually if I plan for the worst things are never actually going to end up as bad as I've planned for. Petula does take it to another level but I get her. I also love that she crafts and knits and spends her time making random quirky things to keep her busy. I lov ...more
Melanie (TBR and Beyond)
“Either they were stupid, or they were optimists. Most likely both. "I will outlive you all," I muttered under my breath.”

Optimists Die First is quirky, funny and at times heartbreaking. I enjoyed this one much more than I had expected I would.

I've heard really mixed ones on this, I know some people think the mental illness rep is bad but I didn't personally feel that. I should start by saying that I have suffered from PTSD, depression and severe anxiety for a lot of my life, so I
Mar 01, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: put-aside
i received a free digital copy thanks to the publisher + netgalley. this does not affect my point of view in any way.



there were many reasons why i decided to DNF (or DO NOT FINISH) this book. first of all, i appreciate the plot having all the mental illness representation, but i felt from the first page that it was going to be romanticized. anxiety here felt too forced, and it didn't seem like it was going to have any role in the story.

not only that but the plot felt a little.
Certainly not the worst YA book I've picked up, but I still found it mediocre in every way. I wasn't a fan of the writing style, all the characters fell flat for me, and the overall execution, I thought, was uninspired and lackluster. I'm aware that Susin Nielsen is far from being an amateur writer, so I'm surprised at how "debut novel" this came off to me.

Caitlin Christensen
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
If the title wasn’t enough, the ugly-sweater cover made this a must-read for me. I went in expecting a lot of dark humor and a host of quirky characters, and Optimists Die First did NOT disappoint. This is a very unique book with a whole host of strange little quirks, and I have to admit that I enjoyed pretty much every minute of it.

There are going to be reviewers who have problems with this book, and I think that’s the case for almost any book dealing with mental illness, grief, and other heav
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
3.5 STARS - Last year I was introduced to Canadian author Susin Nielsen's work when I read We Are All Made of Molecules (a truly fabulous, hilarious, heart-felt book which I highly recommend). When I heard that she had a new book out it was a no-brainer that I'd do anything to get my hands on a copy.

In Optimists Die First, Nielsen focuses her story on Petula who suffers from such a high level of anxiety that she worries about everything. The reason for her heightened anxieties are slowly reveale
I checked this audiobook out from my library thinking it was on my TBR when it actually wasn't. I'll consider it a happy accident, because it turned out to be pretty interesting and it only took a few hours to listen to. The characters were anything but cookie cutter and it's not often you read a YA book centered around the effect of long term guilt. I'd recommend it for a quick contemporary read. ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it liked it
It's been a long while since I have read an actual book/written a review. School has taken over my life, I spend most of my days stressed out and studying.

Luckily, I managed to read this in between my classes. This is my fourth year in the book club called White Pine at my school, and this is one of the books that are in that club. Optimists Die First was an entertaining read, but it definitely wasn't one of my favourites. It didn't leave an impression on me, it wasn't very different from other
I can't show much respect to a book when it starts saying that making a friend or having a boyfriend suddenly cures a mental disorder...

Not only does that clearly appear in the way Petula starts not being afraid of her fears anymore, for no other reason than the fact she has a boyfriend... But there are actual phrases like "you were weird before him", "broken", "he changed you - in a good way" (I didn't read it in English so these aren't exact quotes but similar). Just because she has (had?) OCD
I was instantly intrigued by the title and cover, but once I read the synopsis, I was sold.

Petula is quirky. I was 100% on board with her scrapbook and obsessions, even though they weren't healthy. There are a lot of odd characters, but they're all genuinely good people that I was easy to root for them.

The plot was engaging and I was definitely waiting for the other to drop. And sure, the constant mention of cat poop and crocheted items were something I could have done without, yet somehow it
Optimists Die First is a mildly depressing book. It has an honest and gritty tone, so realistic of the circumstances in which the characters find themselves. This in-your-face honesty is perfect for the theme of this book - trust, family, and somehow coping with the guilt of mistakes that shake your world. This book also involves an abundance of cats, cat videos, and crafting addictions - you have been warned.

Petula knows death is lurking around every corner. She is a pessimist and she knows he
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Optimists believe things will always work out for the best. Optimists live in a rainbow-coloured, sugar-coated land of denial. Optimists miss warning signs. "

This book is a super cute, sad and easy read. No matter whether you're an optimist or a pessimist, give this book a go!

I've owned one of Susin Nielsen's other novels, 'We Are All Made of Molecules', for quite a while now. After finishing this book, i can't wait to read it!!
A story about grief and forgiveness.
My full review can be found in my book blog.
Please check it out, thanks!

**Huge thanks to the publisher for approving my request to read this book in exchange for an honest review
jessica ☾
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: beautiful-covers
The cover and title title were what really drew me in with this book, I didn’t even bother to ready the summary before buying it, it just looked so neat! I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this story and it’s characters. I don’t think a lot of our characters issues and grief was really handled in the best way, but I really loved this story all the same.
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight
Most of this book was awesome. This was unputdownable- I read the entire thing without even getting up once. That is not something that ever happens, but I was just so into this book that I couldn't stop. Plus it is shorter, and paced well, so that helps. Anyway, let's move onto the good stuff, shall we?

What I Liked:

First, Petula isn't at the most severe end of her mental illness
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
Petula has severe anxiety and OCD behaviors since the death of her little sister, for which she blames herself. She attends an art therapy group with several classmates, including a very cute new guy, who has secrets of his own.

Petula was a complex character who didn't always make the best choices. Her quirkiness and sharp tongue made her feel real. The minor characters had unique traits as well.

I enjoyed the voice Susin Nielsen gave Petula. The pleasant writing and steady pace kept the plot mov
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was NOT expecting to love this as much as I did!

I REALLY loved the representation (main character has anxiety & OCD, and love interest is a amputee), and I love Nielsen's writing as usual.

I'm not giving this a full five stars because of the love interest. When Petula had something going on with her OCD, he seemed very rude and negative towards her.

I would highly recommend this!
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, 2017
This book is raw yet laugh-out-loud funny. It's about letting go of fear and guilt and replacing it with hope. These are the YA contemporaries I live for.

Also there are cats with literary names. I MEAN COME ON
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Susin got her start feeding cast and crew on the popular television series, Degrassi Junior High. They hated her food, but they saw a spark in her writing. Nielsen went on to pen sixteen episodes of the hit TV show. Since then, Nielsen has written for over 20 Canadian TV series. Her first young adult novel, Word Nerd, was published in 2008 to critical acclaim. It won multiple Young Readers’ Choice ...more

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Oh hey, we're nearly halfway through 2021! We can't really believe it either... Traditionally, this is the time when the Goodreads editorial...
74 likes · 11 comments
“...studies show that in general, optimists die ten years earlier than pessimists."
"I find that hard to believe"
"Of course you do, you're an optimist. You have a misguided belief that things will go your way. You don't see the dangers till it's too late. Pessimists are more realistic.
"That seems like a sad way to govern your life."
"It's a safe way to govern your life.”
“Okay, even if we disagree on that point, we still need to keep living our lives, don't we?...” 4 likes
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