Goodbye Stranger

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Goodbye Stranger Book Poster Image
Bittersweet, lovely story of friendship and social media.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.


Girl is bullied with verbal taunts and mean notes; student who alerted school officials to inappropriate photo is targeted by peers.


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.


A few coarse words: "bitches," "slut," "pissed," and "jerk." 


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.

What 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.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bynonoh October 17, 2019

great book

I thought this book was amazing
Parent of a 1 and 11-year-old Written byZoethustra January 23, 2018


This book is marketed as a book for 10+ year olds, but there is sexting and cursing in it. Not appropriate for that age group. Considering that the book is abo... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bysopha25 March 13, 2017
This book is an adorable version of the hectic middle schooler's life, such as the challenges of friends, crushes, home life, etc. It raises awareness on h... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 1, 2016

Such an amazing book!

I think the book 'Goodbye Stranger' by Rebecca Stead was one of the best books I've read! After reading 'When You Reach Me' by her also... Continue reading

What's the story?

Best friends Bridge, Tabitha, and Emily once swore upon a Twinkie that they'd never fight -- but seventh grade is testing that vow. Em's maturing figure is drawing attention, particularly from a cute older boy sending flirty text messages. Tab has started viewing everything through a social justice prism. And Bridge still wonders why she survived an awful accident in third grade. As they try to figure out whether their friendship can survive middle school, Sherm is trying to make sense of his new connection with Bridge. He's bitter following his grandparents' separation after 50 years of marriage. Finally, an unidentified girl takes a mental health day off from school to ponder friendship and betrayal.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about privacy and social media. Have you heard of any situations of private material getting circulated at your school? This is a good opportunity to revisit your family's guidelines for using cell phones and social media.

  • Do you think females face a double standard when it comes to how they dress and behave?

  • What do you think of the way the characters handle the cyberbullying incidents? Do you think you would make the same choices? Why, or why not?

Book details

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