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Goodbye Stranger

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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?

289 pages, Hardcover

First published August 4, 2015

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Rebecca Stead

15 books2,137 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,351 reviews
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,836 followers
April 3, 2015
After much consideration, I think I’m going to begin this review with what has to be the hoity toity-est opening I have ever come up with. Gird thy loins, mes amies. In her 2006 book Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity (don’t say you weren’t warned), philosopher Rebecca Goldstein wrote the following passage about the concept of personal identity: “What is it that makes a person the very person that she is, herself alone and not another, an integrity of identity that persists over time, undergoing changes and yet still continuing to be — until she does not continue any longer, at least not unproblematically?” In other words, why is the “you” that you were at five the same person as the “you” at thirteen or fourteen? Now I don’t know that a lot of 10-14 year olds spend their days contemplating the philosophical meanings behind their sense of self from one stage of life to another. But if they hadn’t before, they’re about to now. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead has taken what on the surface might look like a fluffy middle school tale of selfies and first loves and turned it into a much more layered discussion of bodies, feminism, the male (and female) gaze, female friendships, relationships, and betrayals. And fake moon landings. And fuzzy cat ear headbands. Hard to pin this one down, honestly.

By all logic, Bridge should have died when she was eight years old. She skated into the street and got hit by a car, after all. Yet Bridge lived and with seemingly no serious repercussions. Recently she’s been taking to wearing little black cat ears on her head, but her best friends Emily and Tab don’t mind. It’s their seventh grade year and there are bigger things on their minds. Emily’s been flirting with a cute older soccer player, Tab’s trying to save the world in her way, and now Bridge has become friends with Sherm, a guy she’d never even talked to until this year. When a wayward selfie throws the friends into a tizzy, it’s all the three can do to keep their promise to one another never to fight. Meanwhile, several months in the future, an unnamed teenager is skipping school. Something terrible has happened and she wants to avoid the blowback. But while thinking about her ex-best friend and the way things have changed, she may be unable to hide from herself as well as she hides from others.

Let’s get back to that idea that with every new age in your life, you’re an entirely different person than you were before. That philosopher I was quoting, Ms. Goldstein, asks, “Is death one of those adventures from which I can’t emerge as myself?” Actual death, she’s saying, is where you change into something other than your own “self” for good. But aren’t the changes throughout your life little deaths as well? Is that five-year-old you in that photograph really you? Do you share something essential? Stead isn’t delving deep into these questions but simply raising points to make kids think. So when her teenage character ponders that her best friend has undergone a change from which her old self will never return the book reads, “But another part of you, the part that stayed quiet, began to understand that maybe Vinny, your Vinny, was gone.” Poof! Sherm wonders something similar about his grandfather and the man’s odd actions. He writes in a letter that his grandfather now feels like a stranger and then says, “Is the new you the stranger? Or is the stranger the person you leave behind?”

To write one part of the book, the teenager, in the second person was a daring choice. It’s so unusual, in fact, that you cannot look at it without wondering what the reasoning was behind its direction. When Ms. Stead was deciding how to put Goodbye Stranger together, there had to come a point where she made the conscious decision that the teenager’s voice could only work in the second person. Why? Maybe to make the reader identify with her more directly. Maybe to make her tale, which is significantly less fraught than some of the other stories in this book, more immediate and in your face. Insofar as it goes, it works. The purpose of the narrative is perhaps to prove to kids that age does not necessarily begat wisdom. For them, the revelation of the identity of the runaway, who was previously seen as so wise and older, should prove a bit of a shocker. It also drives home the theme of changing personalities and who the “self” really is from one age to another really well.

Right now, I can predict the future. Don’t believe me? It’s true. I see hundreds of children’s books clubs assigned this book. I see hundreds of teachers having kids read it over the summer. And time after time I see kids handed sheets of paper (or maybe virtual paper – I’m flexible) with a bunch of questions about the book and their interpretation of the events. And right there, clear as crystal, is the following question: “What is the significance of Bridge’s cat ears?” Don’t answer that, kids. Don’t do it. Because if the adult who handed you this book is asking you that question, then they themselves didn’t really read the book. You could ask a hundred questions about “Goodbye Stranger” but if the cat ears are your focus then I think you took the wrong message away from this story.

And there’s such beautiful prose to be enjoyed as well. Sentences like “You can see the sun touching the tops of the buildings across the street, making its way through the neighborhood like someone whose attention you are careful not to attract.” Or, “You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once.” And maybe my favorite one, “You know what my dad told me once? He said the human heart doesn’t really pump the way everyone thinks . . . He said that the heart wrings itself out. It twists in two different directions, like you’d do to squeeze the water out of a wet towel.” Trust me – if I could spend the rest of this review just quoting from this book, I’d do it. I suspect that would only amuse me in the end, though.

Bane of the cataloging librarian’s job, this book is a middle school title for middle schoolers. Not young kids. Not jaded teens. Middle. School. Kids. As such, were it not for the author’s fantastic writing and already existing fan base, it would languish away in that no man’s land between child and teen fiction. Fortunately Stead has a longstanding, strong, and dedicated group of young followers who are willing to dip a toe into the potentially murky world of middle school. There they will find exactly what we all found when we were that age. There will be kids who seem to be enjoying an extended childhood, while others have found themselves thrust into mature bodies they have no experience operating. With this book the selfie has officially entered the children’s literature lexicon and woe betide those who seek to turn back the clock. Naturally, this will lead some adults to believe that the book is better suited in the YA and teen sections of their libraries and bookstores. I condemn no one’s choice on where best to place this book, particularly since some communities are a bit more conservative in their tastes and attitudes than others. That said, I am of the firm opinion that this is a book for kids. We may like to believe that the situations that occur here (and they are very PG situations, for what it’s worth) don’t occur in the real world, but we’d be fooling ourselves. If the heroine of the book had been Bridge’s friend Emily and not Bridge herself, then a stronger case could be made for the book’s YA inclinations. Moreover the tone of the book, while certainly filled with intelligent kids, is truly intended for a child audience. Adults will enjoy it. Teens might even enjoy it. But it’s kids that will benefit the most from it in the end.

The trickiest part of the book, and the part that may raise the most eyebrows, is Stead’s handling of the notion of feminism and the perception of girls and women. Emily and Bridge’s friend Tab takes a class from a woman who seems to have stepped out of a 1974 women’s studies college course. Her name is Ms. Berman but she says the kids can call her Berperson. Tab, for her part, devours everything the Berperson (as they prefer to call her) says and then takes what she’s learned and applies it in a bad way. She’s a middle schooler. There are college girls who do very much the same thing. So I watched very closely to see how Tab’s feminist interpretation of events went down. First off, the Berperson does not approve of what Tab does later in the book. Then I wanted to see if Tab’s continual feminist statements made any good points. Sometimes they really really do. When it comes to the selfie, Tab’s the smartest of her three friends. Other times she’s incredibly annoying. So what’s a kid going to take away from this book re: feminism? For the most part, it’s complicated but the end result is that Tab is left, for all her smarts early on, a fool. That’s a strong message and one that I’m worried will cast a long shadow over the concept of feminism itself, reinforcing stereotypes that it’s humorless and self-righteous. On the flip side, there are some very intelligent things being said about how girls are perceived in society. When a girl is slut shamed (the exact phrase isn’t used but that’s what it is) for her picture, she says later, “But the bad part wasn’t that everyone was looking at the picture. I mean, it was weird and not great. But the bad part was that it felt like they were making fun of my feeling good about the picture. Of me liking myself.” Lots to unpack there.

If Stead has a known style then perhaps it’s in writing mysteries that aren’t mysteries. Every question raised by the text along with every loose end is tied up by the story’s close. Characters are smart and their interactions with one another carry the thrill of authenticity. Stead is sort of a twenty-first century E.L. Konigsburg. Her kids are intelligent but (unlike Konigsberg, I would argue) they still feel like kids. And there are connections between the characters and events that you didn’t even think to hope for until, at last, they are revealed to you. I heard one adult who had read this book say that it was “layered”. I suppose that’s a pretty good way of describing it. It has this surface simplicity to it but even the slightest scratch to that surface yields gold. I’ve focused on just a couple of the aspects of the title that I personally find interesting, but there are so many other directions that a person could go with it. If Stead has a known style, maybe it isn’t mysteries or kids smart beyond their years or multiple connections. Maybe her style is just writing great books. The evidence in this case speaks for itself.

For ages 10 and up.
Profile Image for Idarah.
464 reviews51 followers
August 13, 2016
“Who’s the real you? The person who did something awful, or the one who’s horrified by the awful thing you did? Is one part of you allowed to forgive the other?”

Rebecca Stead is an author I’ve been meaning to read for the longest time. Her Newbery Medal winning book, When You Reach Me, was the book that put her on my radar, but it’s her latest book, Goodbye Stranger, that I’ve actually read. After such a positive reading experience, I’ve purchased all of her remaining books, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting through those in no time.

If I woke up one day to find myself in my twelve-year-old body and had to go back to middle school, I’d check myself into the psych ward. Middle school was an awkward time for me: maturing physically, the tangle of friendships and betrayal, bullying, grades, peer pressure, and the need to please everyone. High school was even weirder. Stead put me right back into that time and place, compouded with the new issues facing youths today.

Told from a variety of perspectives, Bridge and her two best friends face challenges related to change and growth when they enter the seventh grade. The advancement of technology has made what used to be black and white definite gray areas. Subjects like divorce, sexting, bullying and a slew of other issues are used by Stead to skillfully weave in the vulnerability and pain of adolescence in today’s world. A great read. Four-and-a-half stars for sure!
Profile Image for L A i N E Y (will be back).
395 reviews695 followers
July 22, 2019
Man, the Banana Split Book Club! A book club in a school for kids with divorced parents.

Just WOW. I hope it’s real because it would make me feel a lot better about humanity, seriously. Warms my heart to bits.

My second book from Rebecca Stead and I have to say that she definitely has the ability to create these naturally curious characters so organically. Both When You Reach Me and Goodbye Stranger are not laugh-out-loud funny but they have this air of childhood simplicity about them that’s quite unique to Stead. Both times I instantly liked her MCs and wanted to be with her longer than the length of the book.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,720 followers
October 4, 2015
Rebecca Stead writes about youth so well that she reminds me of another wonderful author I loved when I was a girl: Judy Blume.

Goodbye Stranger is the third Stead novel I've read, and it's very strong. It's the story of a group of friends growing up together, and how their friendship is tested by different challenges. I realize that is the basic synopsis of almost every children's book out there, but Stead makes it her own.

The first character we meet is Bridget (Bridge for short), who survived a terrible accident at a young age, and it imbued her with an odd sense of purpose:

On the day Bridge was discharged from the hospital, one of the nurses said something that changed the way she thought about herself. The nurse said, "Thirteen broken bones and a punctured lung. You must have been put on this earth for a reason, little girl, to have survived." ...

Bridge couldn't answer the nurse, because by that time her jaw had been wired shut. Otherwise, she might have asked, "What is the reason?" Instead, the question stayed in her head, where it circled.

That passage is on page 3 of the novel, which proves my point about what a clever writer Stead is -- right off the bat we have a young girl who is questioning her purpose in life. I love it!

We also meet Bridge's friends, who are each battling their own adolescent growing pains (one of the girls gets caught texting inappropriate things to a guy, which is a common problem today) and also a nice boy, Sherm, who tries to do the right thing for Bridge.

There is also a group of girls who are slightly older than Bridge's friends, which is why I included this book in the YA category. Stead's two other works were smart children's novels, but I think this one could be appreciated by teens because it has some older themes.

I don't want to reveal anything more about the plot, because there is a fun mystery at the heart of it. I have enjoyed Stead's novels so much that I look forward to reading anything else she writes. I highly recommend her books.

Favorite Quotes
"But Bridge understood that life didn't balance anymore. Life was a too-tall stack of books that had started to lean to one side, and each new day was another book on top."

"Sherm said, 'My grandfather used to say that everyone alive has already beaten the craziest odds, just being born. Like one in a trillion. Your parents could have had a million different kids, but they had you. And before that could happen, your parents had to be born themselves, and their parents had to be born ... I mean, think about it. It goes all the way back.'"
Profile Image for Laura.
1,405 reviews210 followers
March 6, 2017

Rebecca Stead has done it again. Pure magic! I have a hard time reviewing her books though, so hold on to your hats and cat ears! :D

Goodbye Stranger weaves together love and friendship; betrayal and trust; boys and girls. A story filled with young individuals trying to find their way through junior high and high school with their hearts intact. Trying to learn how to trust, who to trust, how to talk and connect with people, and how to stay connected to the people we love in this world. I have NEVER come across a book that depicted the joys and struggles of friendship so perfectly. These girls and boys were real. Very real. Smart, naïve, mean, snotty, beautiful, loyal, funny, strong, and so much more. I loved each and every character for so many different reasons. For his heart. For her cat ears. For his honesty. For her confidence. For their bonds. Just everything! Um...have a mentioned that I have a difficult time reviewing Stead books? Haha...There is always so much life going on in the pages.

Our story is told with a couple of voices, but with many characters mixed in. The adventures of three friends--Bridge, Em and Tab--was where and what my heart focused on. But every character--from the teacher you idolize to the girl behind the counter at your favorite coffee place--comes to life in Stead’s hands. We meet Bridge, a 7th grader getting used to life at school and with her friends again after an accident. Sherm is a cutie with a heart of gold. No, more than that! He is such a good person. I really hope there is a Sherman in every school out there in the world. Simply put--He stands up. Do you know how rare that is? If you find a friend who stands up for you no matter how hard the boat is rocking, never let him or her go. Never! Sherm is trying to feel his way through a change at home and his new friendship and feelings with Bridge. Our third voice is left unidentified until the very end. A piece that I found very powerful. The fact we hear the story in bits and pieces makes it suspenseful and unique. You find yourself looking for clues. You can’t help but wonder what happened to her and between her friends. This book doesn’t just capture the beauty and fun of friendship. It shows the mean and shallow corners as well—with both boys and girls. I had a mean best friend growing up, so I like to see the dark parts of friendship addressed in books for young readers. It needs to be talked about. It’s not all hearts and smiles.

Ms. Stead touches on a lot of issues here in a strong, realistic way, but every topic and turn of event is sprinkled with warmth and wrapped in wonder. You will feel the layers of magic in the connections, timeline, cinnamon toast and moon rocks! But she doesn’t hit you over the head with her wand either. This modern story has all the dangers of posting pictures and bullying and school intruder drills side by side with talent shows, sports, and dances. Stead lets life unfold. She lets life’s magic unfold—allowing readers to see or find it for themselves. Family, fate, friendship, and love. It’s all in here with the betrayal, divorce, trouble, and change. So many changes! We go through so much growing up. We can grow closer and apart with friends and family. We can change how we look and think. We can be different or follow the crowd. So much can happen in life that can change us—scar us. So much so that we don’t even recognize ourselves anymore.

”Is the new you the stranger? Or is the stranger the person you leave behind?"

Now if I was forced to pick a point that didn’t sit well with me it would be that I wasn’t 100% certain Em learned her lesson about the picture. It’s a very real and scary topic to discuss without sounding out of touch or preachy, but Ms. Stead handled it with class and intelligence. You see even my hiccup turned into a compliment!

Just one out of the many reasons why I love this book is the banter and chemistry between Bridge and Sherm.

”The way he seemed to meet her thoughts wherever they went.”

These kids click instantly once they start talking to each other. Isn’t it amazing—that someone so special could be sitting right next to you or living one block up and four over? Stead is a master at portraying different kinds of connections or layers of relationships. The ups & downs. There are two relationships brewing here, but oh-so different. One pair is taking their time, talking, and learning the thrills and tingles of holding hands. While the other rushes, shows everything at once and then slows down to learn and talk. It’s a very powerful juxtaposition. But my biggest surprise and joy here was how my heart smiled whenever Jamie and Bridge shared the page. Jaime is Bridge’s big brother. Their relationship was so sweet! They joke, quote Rudolph, support, tease and blackmail each other. They made me laugh and cry like a baby. Jaime definitely made my Best Brother in the World list! His story is very funny and empowering. But I won’t spoil. Just jump in and meet him. Meet everyone!

Rebecca Stead may write for young readers, but I recommend her for all ages.

Highly recommended.

Profile Image for Stacey.
550 reviews1,551 followers
December 31, 2015
“Love is when you like someone so much that you can’t just call it “like,” so you have to call it “love.”

Rebecca Stead is one of my favourite middle grade authors, so I was incredibly excited to read her latest book, Goodbye Stranger. Liar & Spy and When You Reach Me feel a little younger, but I was pleased to be thrown back into Rebecca Stead's writing style. It's not an obvious style; it doesn't jump out at you. It's a bit like coming home.

Many novels, short stories and poems are about romantic love, but those about friendship can be even more powerful. 13-year-old Bridge is considered a little odd, even by her best friends Tabitha and Emily. Bridge wears black fuzzy cat ears every day because she loves them, and she's not yet interested in boys, unlike her friends. Plus there's that time she nearly died after being hit by a car. But the girls have one promise: no fights.

Goodbye Stranger is told through multiple viewpoints. Bridge is the one we come to love the most and get to know best as she navigates the world of middle school. We're also introduced to her new friend Sherm. He writes honest letters to his grandfather Vinny that he never sends. And the third narrator is a little mysterious: a 15-year-old girl who also feels conflicted and alone because of her friendship troubles. All three of our protagonists are discovering what it's like to grow up. They're learning who they are, their place in the world and who they're meant to be. As with all of Rebecca Stead's stories, there's a thoughtful, philosophical edge that shows that children's books can be as complex as adult books.

We often talk about feminism and diversity when it comes to young adult books, but Goodbye Stranger effortlessly and inspiringly introduces them to our young protagonists. Goodbye Stranger's cast of characters is wonderfully diverse. They also go through some tough times, and the story tackles body image, consent and blame, much like a middle grade version of Louise O'Neill's Asking For It . And, sadly, our characters do not always think the way we would like them to, showing that the world isn't as open-minded as the online book community, even in the fictional world.

Goodbye Stranger is a stunning novel about growing up, friendship and remembering that people change.

"Life isn't something that happens to you. It's something you make yourself, all the time."

Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

I also reviewed this book over on Pretty Books.
Profile Image for emma.
1,871 reviews54.8k followers
July 19, 2022
this was one of the first arcs i ever read :)

and it was exactly fine.

add it to the running list of my villain origin story.

part of a series i'm doing in which i review books i read a long time ago
Profile Image for Snotchocheez.
595 reviews336 followers
October 27, 2016
3 stars

I will always have Rebecca Stead on my radar after reading her perfect Newberry Award-winning When You Reach Me (an homage to Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time). Ms. Stead is one of the best 'middle grade' authors I've encountered. I don't want to dissuade anyone from reading Goodbye Stranger, but this is probably her most 'conventional' book thus and I had a little bit of trouble enjoying it. The idea of 7th graders sexting each other (a trend which Aziz Ansari alerted me to in his Modern Romance book I'd just read a few weeks prior) really weirds me out. I'm not the intended audience here, I realize (and I shouldn't penalize Ms. Stead for my stodginess), but I just cannot see my daughter reading this and deriving enjoyment from it. I usually find Stead's writing so transcendent and miles above the cookie cutter trauma-of-the-week subject matter that's out there for the 5th-8th grade set, but this just seemed so...mundane. But what do I know? I'm just old.
Profile Image for Jeff Raymond.
3,092 reviews182 followers
August 4, 2015
I had a lot of issues with this book. A lot of issues.

First, seeing after the fact that this is probably meant to be more for the pre-YA crowd makes this book all the more puzzling as the subject matter is pretty mature on a whole, with a key plot point being middle schoolers sending racier and racier pictures to each other. Are we really ready to tackle the pre-teen texting issue like this?

There are other stories in the book, to be sure, and none of them are especially engaging - one involves a kid estranged from his family, another involves skipping school, a third about a kid in recovery from being hit by a car and being clinically dead. The tales intertwine, but not enough in a way that makes for an engaging tale, and it's unfortunate given how well the book is written on a whole. The story is extremely readable, but not especially enjoyable.

Beyond that, the kids sound and act older than they are - the voices sound like teenagers in high school and I had to consistently remind myself they’re middle schoolers. If you're looking for firm consequences for actions such as skipping class and sending scantily-clad photos, they don’t really exist in a significant enough way here - the suspensions levied for some kids and the punishments doled out for others feel like aftereffects and are quickly brushed off as opposed to being significant issues for the kids. While it's hinted at, the fact that kids are being arrested and put on sex offender lists for photos not too far from what is described here means this comes across as highly unrealistic.

It’s as if the focus on their own issues isn’t impacted by anything else happening around them. As well-written from a basic prose standpoint that this book is, it seems like a major miss across the board to try to walk this tightrope and yet seem to not really come to any sort of real solid resolution. It might be *too* realistic in that regard in that nothing is necessarily tied up with a bow. You have lockdown drills, talent shows, and none of it really seems to matter. It's all very strange.

I can't really recommend this to anyone. I get what the attempt was here, and it just doesn't work on a number of levels.
Profile Image for Margaret H. Willison.
150 reviews462 followers
May 27, 2015
I often say that there's YA for Everyone (i.e. it's published under that designation, but presents no barriers of enjoyment to older readers) and YA for Teens (totally acceptable books that nonetheless trade in archetypes or tropes that will have lost their freshness and, thereby, their emotional impact for older/more experienced readers). This book is neither. This book is just literature that happens to be about 13 and 14-year-olds, but that approaches them with all the complexity, intelligence, and depth any author setting out to tell an ageless-but-emotionally-compassionate story would use. I loved it and the day I spent reading it was a joy. I can't wait to talk about it with everyone and look forward to seeing how many little medallions get affixed to its cover at ALA Midwinter.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,682 followers
September 8, 2015
Rebecca Stead's writing is just so EFFORTLESS. Her characters are real kids (and adults) having real conversations, and she just GETS it. This is what middle school feels like. This is what trying to figure out what kind of person you are, what kind of friend you are, is like. This is a beautiful, powerful book, and I think it should be required reading the summer before students start 7th grade.
Profile Image for Adri.
986 reviews799 followers
March 2, 2016
4.5/5 Stars
"I think that when you don't know, you should just wait until you do."
An incredible and important novel about growing pains, bumping up against the boundaries between friendship and love (which may, in fact, be nonexistant), learning to like yourself when the world says you shouldn't, and knowing when to call it quits with people who make you more sad than happy. If you're contemplating reading this book, I think that says it all.

The best part about Rebecca Stead's work is that she treats her young characters like humans, allowing them to work through complex problems and engage with the world with awareness and thoughtfulness. She doesn't shelter her characters or romanticize their naïveté/innocence. These are real people going through real things, and what's more, it's not melodramatic. These aren't childish problems being blown out of perspective; they're things that hurt, that scar, and she allows her characters the room to be sad.

I also appreciated how the passage of time was a huge theme in this story. Maybe you don't have the answer right now, maybe you can't change anything right now, but if you give yourself the time to feel what you feel and if you trust in yourself and the support system (the crew) you've assembled around you then eventually you may know what's best for you--and, more importantly, maybe you'll be brave enough to do it. This novel is all about unlearning the bad habit of internalizing other people's ideas for your life. I think it's a sensational story, and I'm so glad that this story exists, not just for young readers but for readers of all ages. We needed it.

I feel like I learned something about love and friendship from this story--how the relationships we form are not a negotiation of the two, but a seamless marriage. This story also gives incredible validation to platonic relationships (as well as romantic relationships), which is something I really needed at this time in my life.

I'm grateful that this book exists, and I can only hope it will make so many more people feel as good as I felt when I reached the last page.
Profile Image for Monica Edinger.
Author 6 books338 followers
March 8, 2015
Excerpts from my spoiler-free blog post.

It is apt that I am writing this just before Valentine’s Day as it is love in its numerous manifestations that is central to this novel. There is the love of friendship, the main one here between three 7th grade girls who have been close and committed friends since very young, vowing never to fight. There is sibling love as shown between the main character Bridge and her older brother. There is the love between parent and child that comes wafting through in Bridge’s memories of her childhood near-death after a horrific accident. There is the love between grandparent and grandchild expressed through unsent letters by Sherm, a 7th grade classmates of the girls. And there is romantic love, something that the girls, Sherm, and their classmates are beginning to explore and consider. How do you know about this sort of love? the young people wonder. What does it mean to like someone? As a friend? As something else? How do you show your interest? Or not? What happens when feelings change? After a few months or after many years? Stead doesn’t so much provide answers as avenues to consider these. Her characters make good and bad choices. They go too far at times. Or not far enough.

Despite its slim appearance, this is a weighty novel. Challenging and complicated issues swirl in it. Some are timeless and some may seem more current, say the tricky way relatively innocent flirtations can, through cell phones with cameras, become something far more difficult. The way jealousy can cause people to do hard-to-understand mean things. That one pair may wait for their first kiss for years while the another might be exploring sexuality sooner. How certain friends and family members can stay the same while others change.

Elegantly crafted and written, this is a book to savor.

Profile Image for Jeann (Happy Indulgence) .
1,010 reviews4,179 followers
October 20, 2015
This review appears on Happy Indulgence. Check it out for more reviews!

It’s been a really long time since I’ve been in middle school, and Goodbye Stranger captures the confusing time just before you enter high school. You’re not quite a teenager, so there remains the naivety and optimism that comes with finding yourself and understanding new situations and other people. There’s also the insecurity as well, with saying what you need to say, doing what you need to do but still remaining close to your best friends. In essence, Goodbye Stranger is about the growing pains with family, relationships, finding oneself and friends, while venturing unknown territory that you don’t quite understand yet.

The writing here is crisp, relatable and easily read, but I couldn’t connect to the plot and characters. There’s a few different point of views, with an unknown narrator, a letter to a grandfather as well as the major storyline with Bridge and her friends. Even while I reached the end of the book, I didn’t know how the mysterious narrator fit in with the major storyline, which lead to a lot of confusion.

I struggled to connect with the book and its characters while reading. The blurb also gives virtually nothing away about what the book is really about – I thought it was about grief because of Bridge being an accident survivor, or about the consequences of sending shirtless selfies of yourself. But while these things were featured, it didn’t really heavily pursue any particularly plotline, and rather focuses on the whole experience of being a middle schooler and the growing pains. I loved the feminism slant and the glimpse of diversity featured though, which felt natural and a part of the character’s thought systems.

While Goodbye Stranger attempts to capture a confusing time of life and finding yourself, the lack of a strong plotline and character connection affected my rating of it. It reads like YA but is actually aimed at the upper MG level.

I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jenni Frencham.
1,284 reviews52 followers
January 27, 2015
Stead, Rebecca. Goodbye Stranger. Wendy Lamb Books, 2015.

This book tells the story of several very different characters: three best friends who have known each other forever and have promised on a Twinkie not to fight, one of whom is a survivor of a horrible car accident, and also a random doctor's son who might want to be friends with one of the girls.

I had such high hopes for this book. It's Rebecca Stead, and I loved When You Reach Me, so I was excited to be able to preview this novel. And it discusses sexting and cyberbullying, both of which are relevant topics. But I had such a difficult time following this story. The different characters don't have distinct-enough voices for me to easily transition from one narrator to the other, and there isn't enough backstory given for me to have an interest in any of the characters or what is going on. This novel is very conversation-driven, which is complicated and confusing. As much as I usually love Stead's writing, I will find it difficult to recommend this book to all but my strongest readers. The characters are in seventh and eighth grade, so this would normally be a book for fifth and sixth graders, but I don't imagine that tweens would enjoy this story or be invested enough in it to finish the book. Beyond the difficult writing, my biggest concern is that the girl who sexted her almost-boyfriend wasn't remotely sorry for doing it. She consistently claims that she is proud of her beautiful body and that there's nothing wrong with her picture being sent to everyone at the school. This is definitely NOT the message I want my young patrons to hear.

Recommended for: teens, strong readers
Red Flags: boy and girl sext each other and girl receives some less-than-nice notes in her locker as a result (lots of slut-shaming)
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purposes of review.
Profile Image for Puck.
670 reviews305 followers
June 8, 2019
Friendship in books is like Cinderella: she can grow out to become the belle of the ball, but only if you give her the proper care and attention.
In most (YA) books she sadly remains an overlooked servant girl, but that’s not the case with Goodbye Stranger In this fantastic middle-grade novel friendship gets room to shine in all its good and bad ways.

We follow three different storylines: we get to know 13-year old Bridget the best, as she and her best friends navigate the world of middle school. We follow a Mystery Girl during Valentine’s Day as she mulls over a (toxic?) friendship. And we read about Sherm, a boy who becomes friends (or more) with Bridget, and tries to deal with his grandfather walking out of his family.

So as you see, this is not a book only about friendship, but about all kinds of relationships. About families, broken up or still together. About friendship being a living thing, and how it can grow stronger because you fight, or grow into something that makes you more sad than happy, and how cutting that bond off is okay.
And it’s about the boundary between friendship and love, and wondering if it even exist.

“Love is when you like someone so much that you can’t just call it “like,” so you have to call it “love.”

I love how Rebecca Stead treats the young kids and teenagers with respect and honesty. We as older readers might do or feel something different, but at that young age, whatever you feel is real and the pain you feel is true. Getting rejected by your friends is the cruelest betrayal of all, or on the flip-side, how your first love is so amazing that you’re willing to do everything for him.

But that latter aspect can get you into some serious danger. Because to my great surprise one of the main issues in this novel is sexting(!), and Stead does an incredible job at showing us all it’s different sides. Not only it’s awful consequences, but also why kids/teens do it and how it makes them feel.

“Are you saying you’re happy that it happened?”
Em picked her head up. “Are you insane? I’m just saying that I still like the picture. And it was supposed to be just for Patrick, you know? That’s one thing. But the bad part wasn’t that everyone was looking at the picture. I mean, it was weird and not great. But the bad part was that it felt like they were making fun of my feeling good about the picture. Of me liking myself. Does that even make sense?”

Stead shows us how that makes sense. She has written a beautiful and mature book that is rich in its messages, and filled with wonderful diverse characters: Bridget is American-Armenian, Tabitha has Indian parents and Sherm’s grandparents are from Italy.

I highly recommend this to anyone, whether you’re in middle school or long out of it, to read this stunning book about growing up, (bad) friendship and moving on.
Profile Image for Beth.
1,158 reviews119 followers
January 25, 2022
Well, I was prepared to love this. And I think there's a good story buried somewhere beneath the separate points of view. But the POVs alternated so often that I never felt like I was able to sink into the novel or really get to know anyone.

Also, I don't like second person point-of-view at all, and I figured out that narrator early on, and - like Celeste said - if this is what seventh grade is like for them, what's high school going to be like? It was dispiriting, but in flashes, because the points of view made the storytelling fragmented, and the book never quite coalesced.

This is a story about friendship - in middle school and in high school, between girls and between boys and between boys and girls - and how easily people can change and relationships can become toxic. Even when the parties involved are twelve. I like the concept. I just didn't appreciate the book.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews626 followers
March 16, 2015
This is a terrific contemporary snapshot of middle school social community life exploring relationships between friends, teachers, and parents. Relevant universal themes such as 'first crushes', school dress codes, body piercing, injustice, differences, mixed messages, double standards, self expression, awkwardness, and love are passionately heartfelt.

Here are a few quotes I especially love:

1) "They were holding hands. She didn't know what to do. She didn't want to squeeze or let her hand go limp, but everything she did felt like one or the other, and suddenly all she could think about was keeping fingers lined up normally and applying exactly the right kind of pressure. She was sure Sherm could tell she had no idea what she was doing."
"Maybe we can snag some cookies on the way out, he said, pretending nothing unusual was happening."

***NOTE: Who doesn't remember a time in their life --when 'pretending' nothing unusual just happened 'like this'? When nothing was said...as if all was normal as all other times? --but you knew -and they knew --???

2)"In movies its always looks easy to turn away from the mean girl. That's what the audience wants you to do. But you couldn't stop thinking about everything you knew about Vinny, everything she knew about you. It hurt when she walked right pass you every day, like a real physical hurt. I felt like you were being erased. And time didn't make it any better."

***NOTE: Everyone has lost a friend. It may have been you that ended it --It may have been them that ended it ---but either way -- if you knew them --(really had enjoyed them for a period of time) -- it still hurts for a long time after...(no matter who was at fault).

3)"Everyone feels different on the inside. It doesn't mean you have a secret mission."

***NOTE: This is a great message to learn early in life. Often --When kids feel different --they also feel 'alone'. It helps to know..'everyone' has an inner voice...(and we don't always know who we are --that inner voice --or our social self).

Wonderful Book! Rebecca Stead wrote a 'gem' of a book for kids in Middle School. Their parents will find value also!

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley!

Profile Image for Shannon.
3,097 reviews2,382 followers
August 13, 2017
This is a seriously highly rated 4 stars, like it's 4.75 and I should just round up. I've loved everything I've read by Rebecca Stead and she's quickly become a "must read" author. She really captures this age well; she writes about kids but doesn't come off like she's patronizing or pandering. Her stories are just that right amount of authentic to feel like realistic fiction. I almost kind of hate her because she makes me remember being that age.

Maybe a longer review to come ...
Profile Image for Karina.
851 reviews
August 1, 2018
3.5... Cute read about middle schoolers trying to figure out how to be good friends and people. The plot was a little bland but for the genre it makes sense. Emily and Patrick start texting and a sexy picture of her gets out to the whole school. Her two friends are there for her but they struggle to do the right thing while learning things about themselves in the process. I like how Rebecca Stead makes these strong characters that solve their problems with common sense instead of killing themselves or taking drugs. Very cute with a mystery twist thrown in. I like Stead's writing. She always makes the characters personable and human.

I always forget that I was young and these dumb little problems and judging are such a huge deal at the time. (except there was no social media in my time... it must be 100x worse now... God help those kids that can't deal with problems in a strong, sane way)
Profile Image for Mary Lee.
3,008 reviews55 followers
March 29, 2015
My two favorite quotes:

"I'll tell you a secret, " he said. "Pretty much nothing is in the budget."

"Life isn't something that happens to you. It's something you make yourself, all the time."

Okay, three:

"Bridge knew why she was here. It's why we're all here, she thought."

Profile Image for Hazel (Stay Bookish).
635 reviews1,608 followers
August 7, 2015
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I’ve heard nothing but great things about Rebecca Stead’s writing and this sparked my interest in reading Goodbye Stranger. Finally having read one of her works, I see the appeal and wonder why I didn’t take to reading her books sooner. With Goodbye Stranger, Stead expertly intertwines multiple stories and multiple viewpoints, layered with depth and complexity.

“You’re going to think I’m weird.”
“I already think you’re weird.”

I don’t read a lot of younger YA/MG books these days but if most of them are like this one, I’d definitely be picking them up more often. There’s a certain lightness in reading Goodbye Stranger, being set in middle school and featuring realistic middle school characters, despite tackling some weighty themes. There’s a girl who’s pondering life after a near-death experience, a boy who writes letters to a grandfather who walked away and an unnamed high schooler who’s struggling with a treacherous friendship. They’re all connected somehow, and not just because they’re going through the same muddle that is the in-betweens of early teenage years.

“Everyone feels different on the inside. It doesn’t mean you have a secret mission.”

There are just so many aspects that I enjoyed in Goodbye Stranger- the mysterious narrator, the positivity and support between Bridge, Emily and Tabitha, the adorable mild romance between Sherm and Bridge, the way the story tackled sexuality and body image, the feminist outlook and the impactful writing. It all ties up together very well and makes for an engaging ornate plot. I’d go into detail but I feel it’s best to start the book with a vague idea and discover for yourself what it’s truly about.

“Life isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something you make yourself, all the time.”

Goodbye Stranger is not at all your typical cute YA/MG crossover novel. It’s a lovely narrative of young teenagers who feel and think deeply and an introspective story exploring friendship and growing up. I strongly recommend picking it up if you’re looking for a quick but meaningful read
Profile Image for Maddie.
557 reviews1,150 followers
June 15, 2016
This story was so real. The three different plot line weave together to create such an interesting collective of first love, friendship and fear of what's to come. Bridge was so quirky, Sherm was so emotionally in touch, and the Mystery Girl, who's story is told in second person, was what really made me want to keep turning the pages. Somehow, each character is relatable in their own way, and everyone has something going on in their lives. I loved it, and if you're looking for a character driven story, this one's for you!
Profile Image for Brandy Painter.
1,634 reviews252 followers
July 19, 2015
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

I've made no secret that I'm a huge fan of Rebecca Stead, and I firmly believe that her books get better and better with each release. Goodbye Stranger has only confirmed that belief.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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?

First and foremost this is a book about friendship and community. Bridge, Emily, and Tab have an excellent friendship. Each of them have different interests, passions, and personalities, but they are also a cohesive well-functioning team who made an agreement long ago to never fight. You can imagine what 7th grade does to this pact. But the girls really do have a strong relationship, and the story of how they weather the ups and downs of the scandals, changes, betrayals, and tumultuous twists of the year makes for an emotional and engrossing read. The developing relationship between Bridge and Sherm is wonderful as well. They have a great rapport and they both need each other's friendship exactly as it is exactly in the place they're both in. I love how both of them are strong enough to hold on to it through all the peer pressure surrounding them to be a couple too. They are both independent and self-reliant and this helps. It's an interesting contrast to the relationship between Emily and her sort-of-boyfriend Patrick. Those two are both more vulnerable and far too open to the manipulative powers of the middle school collective brain. The friendship between the three girls and the developing friendship between Bridge and Sherm also contrasts the unnamed teen's struggle with her relationships in high school as she looks back on her own tumultuous year.

The story is told in a mixture of third person telling the story of the 7th graders, letters Sherm is writing to his grandfather, and the teen's story told in second person. Second person is usually a point of view that will have me throwing a book down and running as far away from it as I can possibly get. And I'm not going to lie and say that Stead's writing was such that she made me forget my deep and abiding hatred for the second person. I was still thrown out of the story and frustrated by the use of "you" in action and thoughts I was not having myself. (Seriously, second person is so frustrating. So. Frustrating. I'm not in the book. Artificial means of putting me there only succeed in doing the opposite.) BUT. It didn't make me hate the book like it usually does, and I can even see the literary argument for having those sections told from this perspective. I do think this is the book's one weakness though. However, they are short and fit into the rest of the narrative well enough. And the rest of the story is so strong from a characterization and thematic stand point that it makes up for it.

The books themes are incredibly strong too. It is a wonderful look at feminism, body shaming, the disparity in how boys and girls are treated by adults and by each other, and the unfairness inherent in all of that. It's also about friendship, community, family, and what one's purpose on earth is. I can not wait to read this book with my own daughter. The parents in this book make plenty of mistakes but love their kids and incredibly realistic. I like the way Stead was able to touch upon such timely themes and subject matter without being at all didactic about it. Goodbye Stranger is a story of realistic kids navigating school and life and each other. They make mistakes. They stand up for each other. They are figuring out life. Reading about their struggles and triumphs will be something many young readers will relate to and enjoy.

I read an ARC received via the publisher, Wendy Lamb Books, at ALA Midwinter. Goodbye Stranger is on sale August 4th.
Profile Image for R.F. Gammon.
527 reviews180 followers
March 9, 2019
In hindsight, I gave this 3 stars. Now that I've actually read it recently, I'll be a bit more generous and give it 4 :) It could have been perfect, except for one little quibble I had with it. And that was this:

This was definitely, in part, a cautionary tale, but it had way more to do with the idea that GIRLS are out to get each other than the idea that GUYS are out to hurt girls.

And this is definitely a topic that needs to be addressed. Girls are mean! I've had lots of experience with it, sadly. But I also know that in the situation presented, the actual outcome was very, very realistic.

Sexting is dangerous. Sexting is bad. And I feel like this book glossed over that a bit, making it seem so that it's only bad IF AND ONLY IF people beyond the intended participant see it. Luckily for Em, Patrick ended up being an okay guy--but then, he also had absolutely zero spine and was a total coward, and I feel like /he/ should have been the guilty one. I really do. It would have been more realistic and it would probably have sent a better message--DO NOT SEXT.

Anyone, that's just my little rant here. My other quibble is with the fact that the characters felt substantially older than they were portrayed. I think it might have been good to have the main girls be freshmen in high school rather than 7th graders, and make Celeste be a junior. But that's just me. :)

Overall, I really loved this one! Especially Sherm, Bridge, the healthy sibling relationships, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and the coffee shop bits. Love it. <3
Profile Image for Kateryna.
481 reviews85 followers
October 30, 2018
This is a story of three best friends, fiercely loyal to each other, but at the same time each finding their own interests and growing up without growing apart. The story was told from various viewpoints. The characters were strong and I liked how the friendship of the three girls was consistently being showcased. The adults were realistic and the outcomes of the problems could happen anywhere. My one problem with Goodbye Stranger is that the Valentine's Day parts were confusing, and although the identity of the character was intended to be a mystery, it was hard for me to feel invested in those parts of the book. All in all, not my top pick ever, but a very enjoyable and charming book.
Profile Image for Beth.
2,935 reviews199 followers
July 11, 2015
As with all Rebecca Stead novels, Goodbye Stranger warrants a second (or third, or fourth) reading to really pick up on missed details. I didn't entirely get this one. It bounced back and forth between points-of-view and it was difficult to completely connect with characters.

Even with the holes in my comprehension, these are the things I was able to pick up on:
1) This book straddles the line between middle grade and YA. To the point where I wouldn't be surprised if in a year or so we start seeing Goodbye Stranger on the list of frequently most challenged books.
2) It deals with topics that every middle schooler today is either dealing with or knows someone who is dealing with, and even though there will be parents out there who insist that what Stead has written is filth, I am also convinced those parents are missing out on a really important conversation with their kids.
3) This book is getting a lot of Newbery buzz. I'm not feelin' it. That's not to say it's not an important book. It just wasn't speaking Newbery to me.
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