Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Steadgoodbyestranger
Published by Wendy Lamb Books
Pub. Date: August 4, 2015

E-Galley made available from NetGalley

The Sum: I have to say I loved this book, but it definitely took me awhile to fully understand and invest in characters. The bulk of the book is told from Bridge’s point of view, who is currently in 7th grade and struggling with school and friendships and “being herself” when she’s not quite sure what that means or who she is. She was hit by a car when she was 8, nearly died, spent A LOT of time in the hospital and missed all/most of 3rd grade, which left her changed and different.  There are two other voices in this story, one from a boy, Sherm, who is also in 7th grade and slowly becoming friends with Bridge. He tells his story in a series of unsent letters to his grandfather who has recently moved out of the house, leaving the rest of the family stunned and confused. The third, and most mysterious, narrator is an unnamed high school student who is taking a “mental health” day from school, who provides some bigger picture context, ties the story together, as her story is only one day, the final day of the book. It’s a bit confusing to keep up with, but Stead does a good job of bringing it all together.

The Ins: What I loved about this one is the relationships between friends, between siblings and between frenemies. It all felt very true to middle school, with some growing up quickly, others wanting to stay young, having crushes, not having crushes, and kooky teachers. The parents here are definitely side characters, as seems fitting for middle schoolers, who mostly want them out of the picture where they can’t embarrass anyone. The writing is a little bit lyrical, a little bit practical, very contemporary and completely engaging. I wanted to know what was going on with these guys, I wanted to know that the mysterious high schooler was going to be okay, that Em was not going to become a cliché, and I definitely wanted to know how Bridge, Tab and Em were going to stick to their “no fighting” rule. That’s a tough one.

The Outs: Not much, but the three voices, two timelines thing is going to difficult for some readers, resulting in protests of “boring” which actually equals “I couldn’t understand it”, but kids who stick with it, are going to dig it.

The All-Around: I have many fans of When You Reach Me, and this one will be an easy sell.

Enjoy!

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