Monday, July 27, 2015

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Summary from Goodreads:
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’m reviewing an ARC that I got signed at BEA. The book comes out August 4th though, so you thankfully do not have much of a wait. And you should be waiting for this one. Stead is one of my favorite middle grade writers. Her books, When You Reach Me and Liar & Spy both shocked me in how good they were. I have no idea why I continue to be shocked by Stead’s books. I should just expect greatness at this point. This was definitely greatness.
I have been able to see myself in all of Stead’s characters. I connect to what makes them stand out, or what makes them “weird.” And then I connect even further to how these characters see the world. I loved and connected to Bridge maybe more so than any of her other characters. I love that she was sort of the more “normal” one in her friend’s trio. Tabby was the uber political feminist (who I adored). And Emily was the athletic popular one and the first one to discover boys.
I loved that different things were important to each friend: sports, social issues, family. And I loved that none of them felt too pressured to be like each other. Bridge didn’t want to be in any club and then fell in love with being on stage crew on her own. She didn’t join a club or a team because her friends did. She was her own person. And I loved her for this.
I also loved the handling of a form of cyber bullying. I love that the publisher didn’t market this as a cyber bullying book nor even make this the central focus. I think this was one of the best handlings of the topic I’ve seen. There’s the problem, there’s the repercussions of the problem, and then there’s the unfairness and handling of the problem. 
And then there’s the slightly older, nameless character who ditched school on Valentine’s day. All we know is he/she is avoiding school and an epic mistake made with a friend that day. And this story so nicely fits in with the trio of friends that gets the main focus. So much happens in regards to friendship, trust, betrayal, and family. There are some chapters in the point of view of a boy who enters Bridge’s life. And I loved his chapters too. I loved that they weren’t all about Bridge and I loved that Bridge took her time in deciding her feelings. I shipped them hardcore, and I loved how their relationship grew.
Also, through the whole book is the immense sense of setting. Like Stead’s other books, it takes place in NYC. And the city is as much a part of the book as the characters are. Everything from the black and white cookies to the blocks walked to get home, to the car accident reference pieces of NYC. And I love that you can never forget where you are while reading this.
All the things that happened in this book from the character who won’t take off her cat ears headband, to the one texting her crush too many photos, to divorce, to learning about what’s not fair in the world all just felt like things that could and probably do happen. Nothing seemed fake or added for drama purposes.
I loved the story, the setting, and the characters. This is definitely another one of my favorite contemporary middle grade books out there. I can’t wait to see what else Rebecca Stead will write. This gets a 10/10.

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