September 30, 2013

Rebel Blue's Bucket List

Goodbye, Rebel Blue by Shelley Coriell

Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Abrams Books | Amulet
Pages: 320 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Rebecca Blue is a rebel with an attitude whose life is changed by a chance encounter with a soon-to-be-dead girl. Rebel (as she's known) decides to complete the dead girl's bucket list to prove that choice, not chance, controls her fate. In doing so, she unexpectedly opens her mind and heart to a world she once dismissed - a world of friendships, family, and faith. With a shaken sense of self, she must reevaluate her loner philosophy - particularly when she falls for Nate, the golden boy do-gooder who never looks out for himself.

Thoughts on Goodbye, Rebel Blue
This book first got on my radar when I spotted it on someone's Fall TBR post for Top Ten Tuesday. I was immediately drawn to the cover - the bright blue is so eye-catching on that white background! I didn't even recognize the author's name at first since I still haven't read Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe. But I was excited when I got approved for it on NetGalley and knew I wanted to dive right in!

Rebecca Blue, known as Rebel Blue, finds herself in detention with the over-acheiving Kennedy Green. Kennedy works on their detention assignment - to write a bucket list - really seriously, but Rebel just thinks it's a waste of time. The two have a short conversation that wouldn't have affected Rebel at all... except that Kennedy dies on the way home from school. Suddenly, Rebel starts to question everything. Kennedy believed in fate, but Rebel tells herself that everything is choice. But who is right?

Rebel breaks into the detention classroom to retrieve Kennedy's bucket list from the trash. Something about it just won't let her go. She tries to get rid of it but it seems like it's following her no matter where she goes. She decides that she's going to have to finish Kennedy's bucket list in order to prove something to herself and to the dead girl who has ended up impacting her life.

To tell the truth, Rebel is the definition of a loner. Her mom died, and she doesn't even know her dad. Her mother was a free spirit, and she raised Rebel to be independent and to live as she pleased. That's all well and good until Rebel has to move in with her uncle, aunt and cousin. In their house, she has to live by their rules... and things aren't going so well. She keeps to herself at school, too, and hasn't tried to make any friends. Basically, she's the exact opposite of Kennedy - a girl who thrived on helping others and connecting to people.

Completing Kennedy's bucket list forces Rebel to face some of the things she's long avoided - her feelings about her mother's death, her frustrations with her family, and her refusal to make friends. Suddenly, Rebel starts re-evaluating her lifestyle and wonders if she really was MEANT to meet Kennedy on that fateful afternoon.

I really liked the concept of Goodbye, Rebel Blue but I wasn't that invested in the storyline. The entire book moves really quickly, and I definitely read it fast. I was a little bored by the opening chapters since the whole setup for Rebel completing Kennedy's bucket list wasn't fully developed and seemed a little too coincidental. I also didn't feel very connected to Rebel or Kennedy. The items on Kennedy's list were sweet but didn't have a any personality. They were somewhat "bland," if that makes sense. I didn't feel like they revealed much about Kennedy (aside from the fact that she cared about making the world a better place). Because of that, I could never understand why Rebel felt so compelled to complete Kennedy's bucket list. I didn't understand that motivation, which left me feeling more lackluster on everything that happened in the book.

Also, there was almost no time spent developing Rebel's character prior to detention. I mean, I know she dyed her hair blue and talked back to her teacher, but those don't necessarily make someone super rebellious in my book. It left me feeling really ambivalent about Rebel as a character. I liked her, but she wasn't that memorable to me. In fact, I liked Rebel's bucket list WAY more than I did Kennedy's, and I kept wishing I could see more of that personality and character.

There's a really strong message in this book about the idea of things being fated to happen and on the idea that the purpose of life is found in connecting to people. I don't necessarily disagree with the second part of that message, but I felt like the book just kept hammering it home. I didn't need to be told that many times and in that many ways that people matter.

Something was just off about Goodbye, Rebel Blue for me. I wanted MORE - more character development, more depth, more fleshing out of the storyline, more feelings, and more connection to what was going on. There was so much potential here, but I just felt like everything rushed along and wasn't fully developed. For a book that could have been incredibly moving and memorable, I needed just a little bit more from this book for it to have become something special. It's still a fun read, however, and I think fans of lighter contemporaries will probably enjoy it.

So Quotable
"We all fall down. We all have scars. Some are more visible than others, and anyone who tries to deny it is full of bullshit."

6 comments:

  1. Such a bummer about this one. Chloe is one of my favorite books, and I was hoping for another sparkling book from this author. I know M finished it this weekend and she was disappointed. Sigh. Great points though and great explanations.

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    1. I haven't read Chloe, but I feel like I need to since M also thought this one was disappointing. I had wondered if I'd feel the same about Chloe or if this one was just a miss. I'm glad you feel like I had some good explanations of what I didn't like - I always struggle when I'm kinda on the fence about a book.

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  2. Whoa. Sounds good. I like the quote. Thanks for your honest review.

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    1. Thanks Juju! I'll be interested in your thoughts if you end up reading it :)

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  3. It's a shame that your feelings about this novel were relatively tepid as I've been greatly looking forward to Goodbye, Rebel Blue since I first head of it! Like you, I was immediately taken with the concept, but I can certainly understand why you failed to connect with this novel on a deeper level given the fact that it sounds as though Coriell fails to examine it in any great depth. Establishing Rebecca's motivation for completing Kennedy's list should have been of key concern given that that's what the entire novel is based on, and it's extremely frustrating that this wasn't done as the story undeniably had immense potential.

    Is there anything more frustrating than failing to connect with a novel despite a promising premise and your best intentions to the contrary? I'm sorry to hear that Goodbye, Rebel Blue didn't work for you, and can only hope my own experience will be a little more positive and fulfilling, although I won't hold my breath given the issues you've outlined here.

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    1. Yeah, it was really frustrating because failing to connect or understand the motivation made the rest of the book fall flat. I certainly think that the concept was a good one - it just needed some more work in the execution. And I'm also so disappointed when I love a concept/premise and then don't end up loving a book. It's hard when you WANT to love a book but have to come to the realization that you just don't.

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