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Award-winning author Susin Nielsen's brilliant new novel explores heartbreak and tragedy in the way only she can - with a big dose of humour, sarcasm ... and lots of cats. Petula's pessimistic world is turned upside down when she meets Jacob, an optimist with a long-hidden secret.

Petula has avoided friendship and happiness ever since tragedy struck her family and took her beloved younger sister Maxine. Worse, Petula blames herself. If only she'd kept an eye on her sister, if only she'd sewn the button Maxine choked on better, if only...
Now her anxiety is getting out of control, she is forced to attend the world’s most hopeless art therapy class. But one day, in walks the Bionic Man: a charming, amazingly tall newcomer called Jacob, who is also an amputee. Petula's ready to freeze him out, just like she did with her former best friend, but when she’s paired with Jacob for a class project, there’s no denying they have brilliant ideas together – ideas like remaking Wuthering Heights with cats.
But Petula and Jacob each have desperately painful secrets in their pasts – and when the truth comes out, there’s no way Petula is ready for it.

Reviews

Hilarious, heart-warming and beautifully unexpected – a real keeper

Lisa Williamson

Optimists Die First will make you feel bigger in every way. Bigger in courage to face a dangerous world; bigger in feeling; bigger in love; bigger in your ability to put yourself back together after something that should break you; and yes, bigger in optimism

Jeff Zentner

Optimists Die First will make you feel bigger in every way. Bigger in courage to face a dangerous world; bigger in feeling; bigger in love; bigger in your ability to put yourself back together after something that should break you; and yes, bigger in optimism

Jeff Zentner

Susin Nielsen has produced a richly comic story featuring a cast of mismatched, engaging characters

Marilyn Brocklehurst, Guardian, The Best New Children's Books supplement

Entertaining but also poignant

Claire Hennessy, Irish Times

Grief and guilt permeate Nielsen’s empathic and deeply moving story, balanced by sharply funny narration and dialogue.

Publishers Weekly, starred review

One of the most talented teen writers working today

BookTrust

Nielsen writes with sensitivity, empathy, and humour

Kirkus, starred review

The novel’s greatest strength is its handling of the characters’ very real burdens with sympathy, wit, and not an ounce of melodrama. Nielsen excels at depicting troubled, clever teenagers

Starred review, School Library Journal

Optimists Die First is both funny and heartbreaking. Fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor And Park will love it.

Red Magazine Online

Nielsen has such a gift for creating authentic teenagers... Infused with offbeat humour, this is a book with a great voice and a big, big heart

Fiona Noble, The Bookseller

Readers will be gripped by Petula’s story and the way she tells it; Nielsen gives her a totally authentic teen voice, loaded with cynicism, sarcasm, humour and flashes of hope.

Andrea Reece, Lovereading

Nielsen has a pitch-perfect ear for the dialogue of the unconventional, the betrayed, the guilty

Books for Keeps

Honest, thought-provoking, life-affirming and a truly wonderful read... this title will help to promote discussion and openness about mental health issues

Carousel

A quirky and deeply moving story of friendship, love, trust, grief and guilt written in an engaging style with laugh-out-loud moments

ReadingZone

Nielsen's writing brims with off-beat humour, authentic voices and real heart

Fiona Noble, Buyer's Guide Spring 2017

The book enlightened me on how we may judge people at first, but we may not appreciate their unique personality until we get to know them as a true person.

Rebekah Marsh, age 14, for lovereading4Kids.co.uk

Nielsen writes with warmth and sensitivity, creating relationships that are believable and nuanced...It’s a book I couldn’t stop thinking about

Jenny Duffy, for lovereading4Kids.co.uk

I could not put this book down!

Emily Price, age 14, for lovereading4Kids.co.uk

Nielsen tackles anxiety really well, but there's also laugh out loud humour, romance and the underlying importance of family and friendship

Askews & Holts Library Services

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback

    9781783445585

    March 20, 2017

    Andersen

    272 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9781783445073

    March 15, 2017

    Andersen

    272 pages

    RRP $35.00

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by Susin Nielsen

Word Nerd
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
We Are All Made of Molecules

Recommendations

Undercover Princess
Everything, Everything
Love, Simon
Turtles All the Way Down
Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons series)
Girl Online: Going Solo
Warcross
Double Down: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (BK11)
Matilda
Boy
Fallen
Thirteen Reasons Why
I Just Couldn't Wait to Meet You
Let It Snow
Artemis Fowl
Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index
Once
Holding Up The Universe
Little Women
A Wrinkle In Time