Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Goodbye Stranger

Goodbye Stranger
By Rebecca Stead
Expected publication August 4, 2015 by Wendy Lamb Books

Bridge almost died in an accident. She's spent a lot of time since then wondering what her purpose is. Now, in seventh grade, she may be closer to finding out than ever before. At the same time, an unnamed girl spends her Valentine's Day trying to figure out where her friendships went wrong and if they are beyond repair.

This is not my first time at the Rebecca Stead rodeo. In fact, I think I've read all of her books (save her first). Despite this fact, I would never say she's an author I like. It's weird. I have sort of a love-hate relationship with her books. I tend to walk away from them thinking, "Okay, I get it. She's a good writer. But that doesn't mean I liked it." Friends, I may have finally figured out what the fuss is about.

Because with her newest book, this one here, I can finally say I liked it. Actually, I really liked it, more than I could have expected to, particularly considering my ambivalence about her previous titles.

I have never questioned Stead's ability to write. In fact, it is the one thing that has impressed me with every book of hers I've read. She manages to pack so much complexity (and simplicity really) into her novels, which usually come in on the short side of middle-grade books nowadays. She manages to create fully realized characters that readers will actually care about in these limited pages and usually explores complicated topics and emotions as well, all without sacrificing the meat of the story. Her sentences are beautiful and all of her books have lovely quotes and phrases that will surely speak to their young readers. There is no doubt in my mind that Stead is quite deserving of her literary accolades and I'm sure we haven't seen the last of her work honored.

But, this book, unlike her others, spoke to me in a different way. This is a book about friendship, about growing up, about falling in love, about choosing who you will be. I loved the relationship between Bridge and her friends. It's clear that they are moving at different paces toward the next step in their development but there is never a sense of whose pace is right or wrong - they are just themselves. I loved that, no matter how differently they may be responding to the changes around and within them, they love each other fiercely. I loved the quieter relationship between Bridge and her brother - it's not explored in depth really, but there is a beautiful moment that captures it later in the story and it brought me to tears. I loved that the unnamed character is also thinking about friendship and wondering how she can be a better friend, how she can fix the mistake she made, and if she can be forgiven. I loved the tender development of first love - it was absolutely lovely to watch and made me fall in love with my own partner all over again.

I really fell for Stead with this book and now can't wait to release it to readers and see what she'll do next.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.


  1. This one didn't work for me, but some earlier Stead titles are... Okay. Again, well-written, but very hard to sell to students, at least at my school.

    1. I felt pretty ambivalent about earlier titles but I really loved this one. But, completely agree - they are basically shelf-sitters at my library.