by Rebecca Stead
Interest level: grades 5-8
Reading level: 4.8
5 out of 5 stars
Rebecca Stead is a master at weaving together a set of seemingly separate stories and slowly revealing connections to her readers. She doles out just enough information to keep you wondering, guessing, and reading until finally all the pieces fit together and you have the entire beautiful story woven before you.
Goodbye Stranger is primarily the story of Bridge, a 7th grader who survived an accident four years earlier, and her two friends, Tabitha and Emily. They have one rule, no fighting, but new friends, love interests, and social media concerns threaten their bond.
The second story is Sherm’s, and is told primarily through letters to his grandfather. As Sherm gets to know Bridge, he struggles with how he feels for her.
The final story is told by a mysterious person who is hiding out from her parents after she decided to take a mental health day from school. As her worried family looks for her, we find out more about what has caused her emotional dilemma, and links to Bridge are discovered.
The book feels a little like a mystery, where you put together clues and connections, but mostly it is a story of friendship. There are different kinds of friendships, and the strength of each is tested in this realistic look at middle school.
The book doesn’t have a flash-bang ending, but it does leave one pondering and thinking about the characters long after the last page is read. The characters are one of the strongest parts of the story. I additionally like that Stead has created a realistic scenario about the perils of social media. I think all middle school girls should read this book to understand that nothing they post, text, or photograph is private.