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Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Genre: Contemporary

Release Date: 8/4/2015

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About the Book: Bridge survived an accident and as she left the hospital she was told she must have survived for a reason. Emily is embracing a new found popularity with boys at school and a crush on an older boy. And Tabitha is the friend who tells people like it is. Sherm is writing letters to his grandfather-but not sending them. And an unnamed narrator wanders the neighborhood on Valentines Day wondering about what makes a true friend. This cast of characters will connect and their lives will entwine and they'll figure out middle school together. 

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Librarian confession-sometimes I feel like I'm the only non Rebecca Stead fangirl. I mean, I liked Liar and Spy well enough and I When You Reached Me was ok, but I felt like the only person who didn't gush over it. Yet there's something about her writing-and the mad devotion from librarians all over-that keeps me reading. 

I was actually very intrigued by this book because it's older middle grade/younger YA and I had a feeling that in Miss Stead's hands, that would be something magical. Then I read this quote that my friend Angie posted and raved about and I was hooked-I had to read Goodbye Stranger.

"That's what life is. Life is where you sleep and what you see when you wake up in the morning, and who you tell about your weird dream, and what you eat for breakfast and who you eat it with. Life isn't something that happens to you. It's something you make yourself, all the time."

Told throughout the course of several months (with one character's narration taking place all in one day), the novel takes interwoven storylines from a group of friends, and those that surround them, through their struggles with middle school. Seventh grade is a rough year. It's a time when friendships can change, relationships can blossom, and life can feel like it's turning upside down. And middle school is a time when life feels as though life is in a constant state of confusion. Growing up is hard and Rebecca Stead captures the awkwardness, confusion, and growing pains perfectly. As an adult, reading this book was like stepping back in time and remembering what it was like to be 13 again. As a young teen, I think readers will relate with the characters very strongly and with such a wide cast, I think they'll find someone they can identify with. 

Bridge is struggling with trying to figure out who  she is-she's been away from school and while her best friends are there, they seem to be changing around her and she's changing too, but she's not sure what that means. She's also becoming friends with Sherm which makes her wonder how can you be friends with a boy and what does that mean? Bridge is also struggling because she's taken the words of the nurse that she survived her accident for a reason to heart and she wants to discover what that reason is. I loved Bridge's shyness and her tentativeness into finding a club to join at school and how she slowly discovers where she belongs and that she fits. 

Emily gets caught up in a texting-turned-sexting relationship and decides to send a photo to her crush which then gets sent around school. I loved how Miss Stead deftly handles this plotline. It's easy to see how Emily can get caught up and how she trusts those around her. It also discusses how society views girls and how girls are treated in situations like this and how often their treatment is unfair and their reputation is harmed while boys reputations are intact. It's a great commentary and something that is a must read and should be discussed with middle schoolers. 

There's also the unnamed narrator, who is struggling with trying to let a best friend go because the truth is there about who the friend really is, but it's hard to say goodbye. And can you stop being friends with someone and have a new best friend? And can secrets really hurt friends? 

Bridge's search for her identity and who she is, Sherm's broken relationship with his grandfather, Tabitha's struggle to grow up, and Emily's crush on an older boy. There is so much wonderful fodder here for great book discussions. And the writing is fantastic. Things are presented in a way that readers will understand, will relate to, and won't feel like an adult is talking down to them or doesn't understand. I think Goodbye Stranger could be a pick for a parent/child book discussion as well. 

Rebecca Stead has finally won me over with this one. I really loved it. I kept wanting to go back to it, wanted to keep reading, and I was interested in all the characters. Everyone was well developed and the plot wove together wonderfully. I think Goodbye Stranger is an absolute must read of 2015 and a book that older tweens and young teens-and their parents-should get their hands on and hopefully read together.

Full Disclosure: Reviwed from e-galley received from publisher for review



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