‘Goodbye, Perfect’ – Sara Barnard

Not due for release until early 2018, I am grateful to NetGalley for allowing me to read this prior to publication, although I can see it being a book that will split opinion.
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first of all…this book focuses on a teacher/student relationship which means it is not ever going to be an easy book to recommend. Though we learn about Bonnie’s relationship through her friend, Eden, there’s no escaping the fact that we’re likely to judge things even before we start reading. I can’t see my way past this, and think the subject will put a lot of readers off without them picking up the book. This would be a shame as I felt the book was more about Eden and her growing character.
‘Goodbye, Perfect’ opens with Eden finding out that her best friend has run away. There’s been some talk of an older boyfriend, but Bonnie hasn’t shared details and this struck me as odd. If you are best friends, the only reason you don’t want to tell someone about it is because you know there’s something inappropriate. Very quickly, Eden learns that this mysterious boyfriend is actually the girls’ music teacher. From this point on we’re in strange territory.
Eden has always been the friend most likely to cause trouble. Adopted as a young child, Eden has made her share of mistakes. Perfect she is not. But her best friend, Bonnie, fits the stereotype of perfect pupil. Straight A student, head girl, positive…we get the idea. So, is Bonnie a victim of grooming or a deluded teen desperate to break free from the constraints and expectations placed upon her?
Barnard takes us through the process of investigating Bonnie’s disappearance. We see a little of how the police work and we are encouraged to consider behaviour of adults and those in authority as Eden and those left behind try to come to terms with what has happened. We are offered numerous reasons to try to explain why Bonnie might have fallen for her music teacher. However, because we are never given the view of those involved directly it is difficult to feel we are being given a satisfactory reason for these events to have happened.
The initial part of the book seemed rather slow if I’m being honest. As a reader, I felt I’d already decided there was nothing to justify what was happening and it frustrated me that Eden didn’t immediately try to take the course of action I would have hoped for. However, I really enjoyed seeing the growth in this rather prickly young woman as she comes to realise what’s important to her, and overcomes her own barriers to try and forge her own life. The latter part of the book picked up the pace and became a story that will certainly engage readers.