Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

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Title: Goodbye Stranger

Author: Rebecca Stead

Published By: Wendy Lamb Books (2015)

Synopsis: Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games—or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?
This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl—as a friend?
On Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight? (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

**Note: I originally read this at age 14 (which is when I reviewed it), and then this past year at age 16 I reread it again. I see a lot more than I did reading this at 14 (within the suggested age range) and I liked it a lot more, but my review remains the same.**

This book kind of weirded me out. First of all, I found it incredibly disappointing. Nobody or nothing changes through the course of the story. The characters do wrong things, but never change and turn. I thought this book was going to be a moral book about why not to do strange things, but instead it just told the story of the characters doing this wrong things and then ended abruptly without explaining why or why not they should be done.

Okay, so I understand the depth and the meaning behind it, I guess. But I don’t appreciate it for a couple reasons:

  1. It was waaaaay to mature for middle schoolers (the suggested age range).
  2. It was way too vague of a story for me to really understand what was going on.
  3. There were no strong answers or morals at the end.

Number one: This book deals with heavy, even-edging-on-inappropriate issues, and worse, there’s never any black-and-white answer about what to do about them. It just kind of presents the issues, shows the characters, and then ends the book without explanation. I understand the characters were middle schoolers, but I honestly think the author should have seriously considered making this an adult book. I even feel it was too mature for the majority of the YA audience. Will there be a couple teenagers who read it and understand it, like myself? Sure. But I feel the majority of the teenage audience is going to take the occurances in this book the wrong way. In other words: This book just displays the problem without answer, so it could be taken either way—that it’s wrong to do these certain things, or that it’s okay to. And I didn’t like that at all.

This story felt like I was reading it through a thick layer of fog that never really cleared up. Even though I’m 14, above the age recommendation of middle school, I finished the book and still didn’t understand the title of this book or the majority of things that happened until I read a bunch of Goodreads reviews that explained the depth. So while I guess that it’s good that it’s deep, if nobody but adults can understand the themes, then it’s pointless to market it for middle schoolers. I was confused the entire book, and honestly, I’m still sorta lost. Specifically, the sections in second-person; even though they were really well done and creative, they just added to the confusion, especially when no clarity was offered. I still don’t really know who the mysterious girl is. In other words, I appreciate the depth. But the fact that it’s supposedly aimed at middle school kind of ruins it, because the fact is that most kids will probably not understand this book, or very little of it.

Negative Content/Notes:

What I disapproved of most in this book is the swearing. I found more than one curse word phrased in the context of this story and it was most definitely unnecessary. I hate the fact that there is so much swearing in juvenile fiction these days. Children’s. Fiction. Should. NOT. Have. Swearing! Especially when you’re supposedly trying to send a moral message. Especially considering the fact there was no strong morals, it felt like it was just encouraging children to swear, which is, needless to say, never good.

Overall:

Anyway, to sum it up, I just did not like the audience this was targeted for. It was a fuzzy and hard to understand storyline with deep themes that only some adults will fully be able to grasp. Overall, it just was kind of strange and weird and I would say nobody under 14 would be ready for this, not that I’d recommend it at all—because I wouldn’t.

Rating: 2.0

Recommended to: Not recommended.

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