A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Thoughtful lessons on making, keeping, and losing friends. Helpful scenarios present some ways teens may deal with bullying, ostracism, and body shaming. Influential teachers play strong roles in students' lives.
Relationships are never static and may be tested -- especially during the teen years -- by new friends, personal growth, peer pressure, and more. But loving friendships can survive disagreements, small hurts, and misunderstandings. It's important to do the right thing, even when it's difficult. Teens may feel lonely, but chances are that many of the people around them are coping with the same feelings.
Positive Role Models
Valuable friends weather rocky circumstances together: They sometimes get angry and argue, but they apologize, forgive, and move on. Plenty of upstanders, including students cheering on a classmate struggling through an audition, and helping a student get a well-deserved turn in the spotlight. When an inappropriate photo gets circulated, a student brings it to the attention of adults and is thanked by the classmate whom some blame for spreading the image.
Violence & Scariness
Girl is bullied with verbal taunts and mean notes; student who alerted school officials to inappropriate photo is targeted by peers.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Young teen developing curves attracts attention. Teens text each other suggestive photos, which are widely circulated and lead to harassment, ostracism, and body shaming. Young teen dresses as a Playboy bunny for Halloween.
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A few coarse words: "bitches," "slut," "pissed," and "jerk."
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Products & Purchases
Passing references to several brands, particularly foods, such as Twinkie, Kit Kat, Frappuccino, Volkswagen, and Matchbox.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Mention of children pretending to drink empty beer bottle and getting in trouble with father.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Goodbye Stranger is a compassionate, timely novel about the strange betwixt-and-between years of middle school. Newbery Medal-winning author Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me) centers the drama on an intimate picture that gets shared with an unintended audience and touches on privacy, sexism, friendship, identity, faith, betrayal, and love in its many surprising forms. The central characters are solid, well-grounded tweens and teens who make mistakes but learn from them, with plenty of guidance from friends and family. Mean kids strongly influence events but remain at the edges of the storytelling. The sexual content -- risqué photos, a girl called a slut -- make this more appropriate for a slightly more mature audience than the publisher's recommended age of 10 and up.
Is It Any Good?
Out of the everyday dramas of middle school -- flirting, pettiness, new ideas, dangerous friends -- Rebecca Stead weaves a tender meditation on love and the ways it can both strengthen and weaken us. GOODBYE STRANGER uses three distinct narrative perspectives to examine every facet of love and friendship, from newly blossoming relationships to withered, dead ones.
Stead, a Newbery Medal winner for When You Reach Me, is finely attuned to the thrills and heartaches that mark the middle school years, and readers of any age will recognize themselves in her sensitively told story. Timely plot hooks -- from dealing with "frenemies" to navigating social media -- give tweens plenty to ponder but never seem forced or preachy.
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