The Optimists Die First

The Optimists Die First

eBook - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
This touching, hilarious tragi-comedy by award-winning author Susin Nielsen proves: Life is out to get you. But so is love. A quirky alternative to the "sick lit" genre for YA readers. Petula's funny, and a crafting genius, but no social star at high school, and it doesn't help that she's isolated herself after her adored toddler sister died. Petula feels responsible for this death, though her parents say it was a tragic accident. No one's fault. Now, Petula sees danger everywhere: every activity and every bite of food could kill you. Then a new boy, Jacob, joins Petula's group in the school's lame art therapy program; he has a prosthetic arm and darkness behind his sunny surface. Petula and Jacob become friends, then, something more. But a secret behind why he's in the group could derail them.
Publisher: Toronto : Tundra Books, 2017
ISBN: 9781770497849
Characteristics: 1 online resource


From Library Staff

Petula lives by strict rules, the most important being "expect the worst". As a recent family tragedy proved, the results can be catastrophic when you deviate from careful routine or take a chance. But a group of misfits in her Art Therapy class and one special guy are enticing Petula b... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Dec 29, 2017

Incredible! I was amazed at how this story engaged me so well, I couldn’t put the book down! It was as though I was living inside of the book and experiencing the troubles Petula, the main character, was going through. I have developed a love of realist young adult books but each time I read a book like this one, it always takes me by surprise the diction the author uses and the way they engage the reader. After Petula goes through a family tragedy, she begins to see the world as a terrible and dangerous place full of disease and harm. This all slowly begins to change after a boy shows up to her school and is involved with an art therapy with Petula. Following this exciting journey and showing the evolution of Petula will change how you see the characters and learn what one secret can do in a relationship. I would highly recommend this fantastic book to teenagers and fans of romance novels and you will quickly learn why once you begin to read the book! I would give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.
- @booklover327 of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

JCLChrisK Oct 19, 2017

An engaging and moving study of a character--plus her entire supporting cast--dealing with grief and guilt of various types. 3.5 stars.

samdog123 Sep 15, 2017

Two years after Petula's younger sister dies in a tragic accident, she and her family have not been able to overcome their overwhelming grief. When Petula meets Jacob at an art therapy class, she begins to see the world in a different way and slowly overcomes her anxieties. A great companion read to the Hero of Room 13B.

Aug 10, 2017

This book begins with the usual, and normally I would have put down a typical teenage love story, but what really hooked me was the interesting characters and unordinary plot as the story unraveled. The author manages to make one pessimist and one optimist fall in love, adding more spice to the story. The setting is set in Vancouver, a place we are well familiar with. Another story well written, well worth the four and half stars.

Aug 06, 2017

I honestly didn't think much of this book in the beginning. However, as the plot unrolls, and more facts and characters came into play, I was hooked. This book is quite interesting because it will provide a new point of view for a lot of people-a pessimist's view. (At least for me, it did). At any rate, this book is what people would call an "oddball story", but I think that adds to the richness of this story. This book is full of surprises and plot twists, and I think you'll follow along until the entire plot rolls out. Another great book.

Jul 29, 2017

Susan Nielsen is an incredible author. I fell in love with her story, 'We are all Made of Molecules' because of it's unique perspectives and ideas. After reading this, I decided to read 'Optimists Die First'. This book follows a 16 year old girl called Petula. A family tragedy has caused her to be very closed off to the world. She is now scared of many things from bacteria to aeroplanes to walking near building sites becuase of the risks. Every week she goes to the dreaded therapy class that is meant to help her out of shell through the form of art. During one of her sessions, she meets an unexpected friend. This story is about Petula's recovery and her new view of the world with the help of a special someone. I would recommend it to anyone over the age of 11. It was really well written and I enjoyed it very much.

Jun 27, 2017

Optimists Die First by Susin Neilsen, was an outstanding book. I love how she always in-cooperates her characters from other books into the one you are reading. Her stories are full of sometimes relatable (or sometimes just understandable and not relatable) plots. They are all set in modern Vancouver, so living in Vancouver allows me to set a more realistic setting and not something I just imagine would be perfect.

The story in general was about a teenage girl named Petula, she has really big fears or phobias. Petula is a safety geek, if anything could be somehow dangerous like drinking out of a glass glass, she would either stop you or run away screaming. That was all until Jacob came along, someone with guilt and fears. Jacob doesn't like to share his fears but instead helps everyone else conquer theirs. Doing that makes everybody love him and for Petula.... well don't get me started. All is well until Jacob drops the bomb about the REAL truth of what happened in his accident which caused his fears. Jacob leaves everyone shocked, will Jacob figure out how to explain himself??

liljables May 18, 2017

I was such a big fan of Nielsen's We Are All Made of Molecules that I had BIG expectations for her most recent novel. Optimists Die First lived up to its predecessors (and then some!). Nielsen has deftly depicted grief in some of its many forms, in teens and adults alike, but she also hints at the light at the end of the tunnel: we can move on with our lives without forgetting about our lost loved ones. That this novel takes place in Vancouver is icing on the cake!

kantoniw Feb 07, 2017

Susin Nielsen does not disappoint! Loved it!

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

Aug 10, 2017

donutwombat thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


Add a Quote

JCLChrisK Oct 19, 2017

Either they were stupid, or they were optimists. Most likely both. "I will outlive you all," I muttered under my breath.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Subject Headings


Find it at VPL

To Top