Rating: 3.5 stars
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?
I really enjoyed reading Goodbye Stranger because of how simple of a read it is to get through. Even though I’m not at all its intended audience as I’m not a middle schooler, I felt like I could still relate to the overall content as I remember what it was like for me being in middle school. Going through physical changes to my body and not knowing how much things in my life would change, trying to make friends and trying to fit in, and boys. I remember how awkward middle school was, and I feel like this book perfectly captured one of those years.
I know some people might criticize some of the content in this book as one of the subjects discussed is sexting, but I feel like as the world has changed since I was in middle school, heavy subject matters need to be discussed. And I honestly appreciate how Rebecca Stead covers this subject as its something that definitely needs to be talked about, especially with younger people. I know a lot of parents might disagree, but would you rather they learn about it from you or find out through someone asking them for pictures?
What I also enjoyed about Goodbye Stranger was seeing all of the different friendship dynamics. You mostly see the story told through Bridge’s perspective, but she was a part of a friend group of three: her, Tabitha, and Emily. Then one day in school, Bridge meets a boy her age named Sherm, and she becomes friends with him as well. But their friendship is a different dynamic with her two girlfriends as the three of them make a promise never to fight, which often gets tested throughout the book. The difference other than Sherm being a boy is that even though there’s a possibility of them becoming more than friends, the book focuses more on them just being friends and them enjoying each other’s company. And as someone who had a lot of male friends when I was around that age, I appreciate Stead showing a friendship between a boy and girl that didn’t focus heavily on becoming more. There’s also the friendship/rivalry that gets shown between Bridge’s brother Jamie and Alex, which in Goodbye Stranger I appreciated seeing. To me, it was an interesting dynamic to read, and I enjoyed seeing how it played out.
What I would say my criticism is for this book is how slow of a read it is. I know the intended audience is for middle schoolers so it would be slower as a result, but there were times where it felt to me like it was too slow. They would introduce an element/plot point to the story, but then it would take what felt like several chapters for it to play out. It was to the point where these elements/plot points were predictable, you were just waiting for it all to play out in the pages as you continued to read.
I also wasn’t at all that big of a fan of the chapters taken from the perspective of the mysterious high school girl who supposedly underwent a betrayal on Valentine’s Day. At first, I found them interesting as I was trying to figure out who this high school girl was. But then once I found out what the betrayal actually was and the mystery of this high schooler was revealed, I was disappointed. I was disappointed because there was so much build up to her betrayal, but then when you find out what actually happened, it felt like a waste of chapters in this otherwise enjoyable read. Especially because the “betrayal” was mostly of her own doing and if anything I felt like it was her that betrayed her friend and put that friendship at risk, not the other way around. I also was disappointed by these chapters because we were introduced to this character early on in the book and what I knew of her before finding out she was the mystery high schooler seemed interesting and I had wondered what chapters of this book would look like from her perspective. But then when I found out she was the mystery character, I felt completely let down as what I’d seen of her character didn’t make me believe these chapters were actually from her perspective.
Overall, my experience reading Goodbye Stranger was enjoyable. I was reminded of how simple life used to be and reminded of some of the books I read when I was around that age that I enjoyed. Reading this book made me feel nostalgic and at times wish I could go back to when things in life were so much simpler.
Please leave a comment below on my blog if you’ve read any books that reminded you of a simpler time in your life that you wouldn’t mind revisiting. I wouldn’t mind hearing what stories made you reminisce.