Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Published on August 4, 2015
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, Friendship, Young Adult
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Bridge is an accident survivor who's wondering why she's still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody's games--or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?
This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl--as a friend?
On Valentine's Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?
Wow. I love Rebecca Stead’s work, and Goodbye Stranger did not disappoint! In Stead’s unique style she weaves together several stories about friendship, love, and growing up. While the majority of the story is told from Bridge’s POV as she navigates junior high, we also get snippets of Sherm’s story (the boy who’s a friend), and an anonymous POV of a girl who is dealing with the loss of her best friend. Not once did I get bored with the alternating POVs, and by some witchcraft, Stead makes sure the reader isn’t lost among the storylines.
When Bridge makes a new best friend in Sherm, their relationship is juxtaposed with her best friend’s relationship with an older boy who pushes the boundaries of what’s comfortable. Stead never puts a “good” or “bad” label on the two differing approaches to first love, but she does touch on how dangerous cyber-bullying can be, as well as addressing body ownership in an approachable way.
One thing I particularly enjoyed was the diversity of the three best friends: Bridge, Tabitha, and Emily. Not only did they come from diverse backgrounds, but they are also very much their own persons and stuck to that throughout the book. There was never really any fear that junior high would tear them apart – even when they knew that they wouldn’t be in the same after-school clubs or play the same sports. Often I feel as though coming-of-age books focus on how a group of friends fear they don’t have anything in common, but with Goodbye Stranger the three girls were confidant in who they were and what they wanted. I found that really refreshing!
I loved that there was never one overwhelming theme, but lots of insights into how we deal with rejection, acceptance, and growing apart from those who once defined us. It’s about finding your own voice and staying true to yourself. I would say that this story is ultimately about friendships, albeit some of those turn into romantic relationships, but really it’s about how those important relationships can build us up and make us stronger.
This book was honest, tender, and at times heartbreaking. Once again, Rebecca Stead holds wizard status when it comes to growing up. I wish she’d been writing back when I was in junior high, but let’s face it, her stories are important at any age. Wisdom is wisdom and Goodbye Stranger has loads to share.
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