MMGM (1/1/2018): Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (a re-review)
Update (July 31, 2021): I have since posted a re-re-review of Goodbye Stranger that is my preferred review of this book.
Today, I'm doing something odd: instead of looking forward toward the new year (happy new year, by the way!), I am looking backward, to April, specifically. In April, I reviewed what I consider to be my favorite book of all time, Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. However, as I even recognized in the review itself (click here), my comments do not do the book justice, which has nagged at me for eight months. Therefore, in order to enter the year with a clean conscience, I am re-reviewing Goodbye Stranger. (My old review will remain up for anyone who is curious.)
Here's the publisher's description:
This brilliant, New York Times bestselling novel from the author of the Newbery Medal winner When You Reach Me explores multiple perspectives on the bonds and limits of friendship.
Long ago, best friends Bridge, Emily, and Tab made a pact: no fighting. But it’s the start of seventh grade, and everything is changing. Emily’s new curves are attracting attention, and Tab is suddenly a member of the Human Rights Club. And then there’s Bridge. She’s started wearing cat ears and is the only one who’s still tempted to draw funny cartoons on her homework.
It’s also the beginning of seventh grade for Sherm Russo. He wonders: what does it mean to fall for a girl—as a friend?
By the time Valentine’s Day approaches, the girls have begun to question the bonds—and the limits—of friendship. Can they grow up without growing apart?
There are so many wonderful things I could say about this book! First, it does not fall prey to the overused topics that have plagued many middle-grade books, such as death (although Bridge has had a near-death experience, having been hit by a car and heavily injured at the time) and loss of friends (although Bridge, Em, and Tab are changing in different ways, they have a strong bond and are always there for one another). The book jumps between several stories (a main one which follows Bridge and her experiences, a smaller one which centers around an unidentified high schooler who is hiding on Valentine's Day, and a yet smaller one which consists of letters from Sherm to his grandfather and occasional backstories about him). Each of these stories is always entertaining, at times heartbreaking or thought-provoking, and often filled with small explanations or events of the day that make each character's life seem real, but not disjointed. The novel explores such concepts as trauma and its big and small effects, feminism (and Tab's misunderstanding of it), and pride in one's body, but it always does this through the eyes of its characters, thereby never talking down to readers. Finally, nearly every chapter of the novel adds in a pleasant experience, however small, that makes this book so incredibly enjoyable to read and reread (which I have done at least four times). Every person who reads this book will be glad they did, as it will stay with them and touch them for the rest of their lives!