Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead | Review

Author: Rebecca Stead
Published: August 4, 2015 
(Wendy Lamb Books/Random House)
Genre: Children's, Middle Grade, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Source: ARC received at BookCon

Bridge is an accident survivor who's wondering why she's still live. 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?

Goodbye Stranger follows the story of Bridget and her friends along with one other story told in second person perspective that takes place during Valentine's Day. I don't really read many middle grade novels, because a lot of the time it seems like they don't completely grasp what it's like to be an 10 to 14 year old. I don't blame them though. If you thought being a teenager was confusing, a preteen is probably worse. There are so many changes going on during that stage. You're not a little kid anymore, but not quite a young adult just yet. That's usually why I tend to not be as inclined to pick up a middle grade book compared to a young adult or even adult novel. Goodbye Stranger is one of those few books that nails what it's like to be a "preteen." Not only that, but a preteen in today's world with social media, and different kinds of pressures than the ones that I grew up with.

My favorite part of a book is the relationship between characters, and even the characters themselves. If a character is strong enough, they can carry the story when the plot isn't doing much. That wasn't the exact case in Goodbye Stranger. It had a great story line and well developed characters that I found myself caring for. The prime example for this is Bridget herself.

There are a few characters that the book follows, but the main story belongs to Bridget. Bridget was in an accident when she was younger, and because of that develops insecurities. At the start of the seventh grade she begins to wear cat ears as a sort of safety blanket. Bridget is different from her friends, where they know where they belong in school, and Bridget is still trying to figure out which group she identifies most with.

One of the aspects that I struggled with was the second person narration's story line. At times I questioned why I was reading this. Although it was interesting,, it felt like a distraction or diversion from the main story line.

Goodbye Stranger has short chapters which is great for middle grade readers, and personally I like short chapters as well. I've read some criticism that the book may be too mature or deals with complex subject matters for the average middle grade reader. I don't agree with that, because although at times the subject get deep, like Bridget's questioning of what her purpose in life is, it's refreshing when a book challenges readers of that age with the content that it deals with. It's a book that will leave a lasting impression on a middle grade reader, and any other reader for that matter.

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