Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Pub. Date: August 4, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: When You Reach Me
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Bridge, also known as Bridget, is a seventh grader growing up in New York City. When she was a child, she was hit by a car and nearly died. The doctors tell her that she beat the odds. She has a small group of best friends: Emily and Tabitha. They have been friends since childhood and pride themselves on never fighting. Seventh grade brings changes though. Emily has a new curvy body that gets a lot of attention. Tabitha tells it like it is and has many interests that her friends don't always support. Then there's Sherm, who is also going through his own issues with his family, but when he meets Bridge, they form an unexpected friendship and maybe even something more. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead examines how middle school is a turning point in many people's lives. It's a tough sea to navigate and Stead gets that about middle school students.Goodreads says, "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?"
Bridge is a fun and very eccentric character in Goodbye Stranger. She likes to wear cat ears (and not just on Halloween) and is a good friend. I loved her friendship with Tabitha and Emily, even though seventh grade can shake things up a bit socially. I also loved the character of Sherm. Readers get to learn more about him through his letters to his grandfather who has disappointed him. It felt very raw and real.
Goodbye Stranger also examines how social media can negatively impact a person's life. In the novel, one of the girls makes a mistake with social media and has to live with the consequences. I can't imagine how hard it must be growing up with the internet, Facebook, Instagram, etc, and I think many teenagers today can relate to this part of the plot.
In typical Stead fashion, there are three points of view that tell the story of Goodbye Stranger. One is even in second person, told by a mysterious person on Valentine's Day. At first, I imagined middle school students having a hard time wrapping their heads around this, but if they just go with it, I think they would enjoy the novel's overall message.
Stead captures middle school so very well. The drama, the problems that occur that seem life threatening (but aren't) and the ups and downs of friendship. Sometimes Stead's novels make me scratch my head in confusion, but if you just go with it, you'll be rewarded in the end. Plus, there's no denying that this Newbery author is a brilliant writer.