Rated Reads

Goodbye Stranger

by Rebecca Stead

Rated: Mild

Bridge is in seventh grade, with two best friends, one who is all of a sudden in possession of womanly curves and another who’s eagerly repeating the feminist ideals of one of her teachers. She’s mostly a typical girl, except for the serious accident in her background: when she was 8, she miraculously survived being struck by a car, and she missed a year of being at school. She still remembers the observation of a nurse, that she must have survived “for a reason,” and she has no idea what that reason is.

Sherm is a classmate who is getting used to a change in his family, unsure what to think. This school year, he notices Bridge and realizes she would make a great friend.

An unnamed girl is reeling from a betrayal and decides on Valentine’s Day to skip school to “take a mental health day.”

Bridge’s newly curvy friend, Emily, starts getting texts from a cute boy in the eighth grade, with pictures of various body parts, and it’s clear their back-and-forth communication is going to come to no good.

These young characters navigate friendships and frenemies, growing older, and changing family dynamics, and it’s all sweet, charming, true and engaging. Stead’s story is timeless, even though one storyline involves the complications of middle-schoolers using smartphones. No matter the details, middle school is and always has been a tricky time, and being teased, tricked, used or ditched by classmates and friends is nothing new. I love Stead’s style, and though this book isn’t as memorable as When You Reach Me, which earned a Newbery Award, it’s still satisfying to spend time reading her words and living amongst her characters. It’s pitch-perfect.

Rated: Mild. There is no language. The storyline involving pseudo-sexting involves brief mentions of photos of partially unclothed middle-schoolers but it’s tasteful and a gentle way of introducing a real issue that’s happening without it being too strong for younger readers.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Goodbye Stranger
  • by Rebecca Stead
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: