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Goodbye Stranger

Review

Goodbye Stranger

When Bridget Barsamian is eight, she winds up in a rollerblading accident that nearly kills her. Right before she’s released from the hospital, a nurse tells her, “You must have been put on this earth for a reason, little girl, to have survived.” She emerges from her accident alive but forever changed, the nurse’s question bouncing around in her head. She shortens her name to Bridge.
 
GOODBYE, STRANGER takes place when Bridge is in seventh grade, and it follows her and two of her best friends, Emily and Tab. The three of them vow to be a set of friends who never fight. Interspersed in Bridge’s story are chapters in the form of letters from Sherm Russo, a classmate of Bridge’s, to his grandfather and chapters about an anonymous high school girl on Valentine’s Day. While Bridge navigates her new friendship with Sherm, Tab becomes more involved with social justice and Emily is pressured by an older boy to text him a provocative picture. Through it all, the three try to stay close to one another while also building up their relationships with mentors, new friends, parents and siblings.
 
What amazed me about Rebecca Stead’s book was not only how realistic each of her characters are, but also how much heart she poured into the pages. GOODBYE, STRANGER delights in shattering so many middle school stereotypes. The three main characters stay friends, siblings and parents are kind and understanding and none of the major characters are shallow bullies. In fact, the whole book is a beautiful exploration of the middle school years, and one that shows that this time doesn’t have to be filled with bickering and back-stabbing.
 
Stead’s book, to me, shows that children’s literature is as legitimate as adult literature. The novel is funny and deep and quirky. It doesn’t ignore the realities of middle school life, but it doesn’t dramatize them, either. 
 
For me, the best part of the novel was how complex each character was, and how real and important their struggles were. Bridge deals with a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that gives her nightmares; Tab gets involved in social justice at the expense of her friends; Emily starts a relationship that none of her friends approve of. Meanwhile, Sherm has his own issues: he confronts the loss of someone he loved, balancing his mixed emotions with his new friendship with Bridge. The unnamed high school girl, whose identity is hinted at throughout the book and revealed at the end, constantly reminds us of the question of what it is to be a friend.
 
It was tough to review GOODBYE, STRANGER because I wanted to do it justice. Stead’s book, to me, shows that children’s literature is as legitimate as adult literature. The novel is funny and deep and quirky. It doesn’t ignore the realities of middle school life, but it doesn’t dramatize them, either. Stead insists that adolescent girls are not doomed to be shallow and prissy and adolescent boys are not hopelessly selfish bullies. I was very moved by the wide range of relationships Stead captures: familial, platonic, romantic, wholesome and rewarding or broken and unbalanced. It’s an impressive accomplishment for such a little book to talk about so much. My hat is off to Ms. Stead, and I know that GOODBYE, STRANGER is sure to fly off the shelves. The book’s popularity will be well-deserved.

Reviewed by Sydney Scott on August 10, 2015

Goodbye Stranger
by Rebecca Stead

  • Publication Date: May 2, 2017
  • Genres: Young Adult 10+, Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling
  • ISBN-10: 0307980863
  • ISBN-13: 9780307980861