A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- Author: Rebecca Stead
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Wendy Lamb
- Publication date: August 4, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: August 20, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love friendship and middle school stories
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