“Love is when you like someone so much that you can’t just call it “like,” so you have to call it “love.”
Rebecca Stead is one of my favourite middle grade authors, so I was incredibly excited to read her latest book, Goodbye Stranger. Liar & Spy and When You Reach Me feel a little younger, but I was pleased to be thrown back into Rebecca Stead’s writing style. It’s not an obvious style; it doesn’t jump out at you. It’s a bit like coming home.
Many novels, short stories and poems are about romantic love, but those about friendship can be even more powerful. 13-year-old Bridge is considered a little odd, even by her best friends Tabitha and Emily. Bridge wears black fuzzy cat ears every day because she loves them, and she’s not yet interested in boys, unlike her friends. Plus there’s that time she nearly died after being hit by a car. But the girls have one promise: no fights.
Goodbye Stranger is told through multiple viewpoints. Bridge is the one we come to love the most and get to know best as she navigates the world of middle school. We’re also introduced to her new friend Sherm. He writes honest letters to his grandfather Vinny that he never sends. And the third narrator is a little mysterious: a 15-year-old girl who also feels conflicted and alone because of her friendship troubles. All three of our protagonists are discovering what it’s like to grow up. They’re learning who they are, their place in the world and who they’re meant to be. As with all of Rebecca Stead’s stories, there’s a thoughtful, philosophical edge that shows that children’s books can be as complex as adult books.
We often talk about feminism and diversity when it comes to young adult books, but Goodbye Stranger effortlessly and inspiringly introduces them to our young protagonists. Goodbye Stranger‘s cast of characters is wonderfully diverse. They also go through some tough times, and the story tackles body image, consent and blame, much like a middle grade version of Louise O’Neill’s Asking for It. And, sadly, our characters do not always think the way we would like them to, showing that the world isn’t as open-minded as the online book community, even in the fictional world.
Goodbye Stranger is a stunning novel about growing up, friendship and remembering that people change.
“Life isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something you make yourself, all the time.”
Published: August 2015 (US) September 2015 (UK
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (US) Andersen Press (UK)
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!