If your classmate died and you had her bucket list, what would you do? That’s the question the title character in Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell has to answer when a girl at her school dies and leaves behind a list of things she wanted to do with her life.
Rebecca “Rebel” Blue is a misfit at her high school. She grew up running barefoot and wild while she and her mother, a photographer, traveled the world. When her mother died, Rebel went to live with her aunt, uncle and cousin Penelope, in a much more regimented household.
When the book begins, Rebel is constantly in and out of detention and has a reputation for causing trouble. When one of her classmates suddenly dies, Rebel is the only one who knows where to find the girl’s bucket list. After trying to get rid of the list only to have it continuously come back to her, Rebel decides there is only one way to get the list – and the memory of her classmate – to stop haunting her: she has to do everything the other girl wanted to do before she died.
This book paints a really touching and genuine picture of what it feels like to not fit in. Readers get a behind-the-scenes look at the thoughts behind Rebel’s often prickly actions. She constantly pushes friends and family members away when she really wants and needs their support. Because she feels like she doesn’t fit in, it’s hard for her to believe when people really do have her back and want to stand up for her. She constantly suspects other people of having ulterior motives, even when it’s clear they are just trying to help her.
I read this book in one day. I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to see how Rebel was going to tackle the next bucket list item. Her classmate’s list is full of good deeds, and Rebel isn’t exactly known for being the helpful type. The items on the list send her to places and set her to tasks she never would have done on her own. Taking on goals that force her to interact with people outside of her comfort zone really changes Rebel, and it’s amazing to see the metamorphosis she goes through over the course of the book.
One of the biggest challenges Rebel faces is learning how to trust others and believe in them. Her friends and family don’t always make it easy for her to put her faith in them, and she doesn’t always give them the best reasons to trust her, either. Her relationships are rocky at best when the story starts, and watching Rebel grow and change and try to figure out how she fits in with her family and at school is emotional, to say the least.
There are so many great messages within this book that it should be required reading for every teenager. As Rebel faces the many challenges that show up in her path, she learns how important it is to be yourself. One of her friends also wisely teaches her about “pie therapy” – essentially, your emotions are like a pie. The crust is what you think you’re feeling, but there is almost always something deeper down. For instance, you might think you’re mad at your friend when she invites someone else on her super cool shopping trip instead of you, but deep down you’re actually hurt and upset that she chose someone else over you.
The chapters are broken up with items from Rebel’s own bucket list, and it’s really fun to see what things she personally wants to do before she dies. I’m an avid bucket-list-keeper, so I really enjoyed getting a sneak peek at what others’ bucket lists might look like. I may have even added some of Rebel’s own items to my personal bucket list.
Goodbye, Rebel Blue is the type of book that has a bit of something for everyone. There are good deeds, not-so-good deeds, love, heartbreak, friends and family. There are over-the-top characters and much more understated ones, as well as a healthy mix of humor and drama that makes everything seem realistic. Fans of YA (particularly in the sweet/funny/poignant style of Sarah Dessen and others) should be sure to check this one out.
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Hi! I’m Abbie. I’m a Wisconsin girl who just completed a degree in journalism, which I hope will help me achieve my goal of reading books and writing about them for a living. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching Doctor Who and hanging out with my boyfriend and his two cats.
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