Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (2015)

goodbyeA beloved author takes on some hot-button middle school issues in a story about love and friendship.

Recommended grade level: 6-8

Pages: 304 (for ISBN 9780385743174)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction

Tone/Style: thoughtful, alternating points of view

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: friendship, romantic relationships, internet and cell phone safety, theatre

Themes: friendship with the opposite sex, changing relationships with old friends, finding new interests, determining when to be in a relationship with someone

Summary: Love is __________.

It’s the beginning of seventh grade and Bridge, Emily, and Tab have a pact: no fighting. 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. Tab sees through everybody’s games. Or so she tells the world. It’s also the beginning of seventh grade for Sherm Russo, and everything is different for him, too. When he gets to know Bridge, he wonders: what does it mean to fall for a girl—as a friend?

Meanwhile, on the approaching Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?

This is a story about the bonds—and limits —of friendship. (Source)

Who will like this book?: Readers looking for something that deals with the not-so-squeaky-clean (but still age-appropriate) struggles of friendship and relationships in middle school will appreciate this title.

Who won’t like this book?: Though there are hints of romance, this book is more about friendship, so it isn’t the right choice for the readers seeking out a love story. Some readers may find the narrative confusing (see the “Other Comments” section below).

Other comments: One central conflict in this book revolves around the sharing of semi-unclothed photos; this is portrayed as a bad life choice. There is some light swearing.

Throughout the book are several “Valentine’s Day” sections, which take place on an unspecified Valentine’s Day (while most of the book takes place from September to February of a single school year). They are told from the point of view of a mysterious high school girl. This shift in time and character, especially with the character being unnamed, has high potential to confuse readers. There are also short letter-style entries written by Sherm, but these are clearly delineated and should not confuse most readers.


Readalikes: For more about changing friendships, try The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O’Roark Dowell. The third book in this series, The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far Away, also covers romance and can be read without reading the previous two books. Unfriended by Rachel Vail deals with the dangers of social media. The graphic novel Drama by Raina Telgemeier involves tech crew, friendships, and romance.

-Kylie Peters

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