Goodbye Stranger.jpgTitle: Goodbye Stranger
Author: Rebecca Stead
ISBN: 9780385743174
Pages: 289 pages
Publisher/Date: Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. C2015.

“How are you supposed to know what you want?” […]

“I think that when you don’t know, you should just wait until you do.” (234-235)

Three friends, Bridget, Tabitha, and Emily, are spending their eighth grade year trying to figure out exactly what they want. Emily has new curves and a new boyfriend, who wants some pictures of Emily. Tabitha has a new role model in a feminist teacher, and wants to save the world through any means necessary. Bridget wants to pass French and have things stop changing, but then meets Sherm and realizes that neither might be possible. And an unnamed girl wants to avoid the trouble she may have caused by betraying a friend’s confidence. All five teens might find themselves reevaluating their relationships.

A coworker of mine proclaimed this a problem novel because it deals with teenagers sending scantily clad pictures of themselves to each other. While I was slightly concerned when I heard this summary, as some people should be, these scantily clad photos involve underwear and no nudity and while that is one of the subplots, I don’t feel like that is the whole story. We never really view things from the perspective of either of the people involved in the picture sending scandal, focusing instead on the points of view of Sherm, Bridget, and the unnamed girl (who is finally identified in the end and is tangentially related to the other stories). But it is something that librarians, teachers, and parents might appreciate being aware of when handing this book to children. And it does provide an opportunity and ability to open discussion on the topic.

I felt the three friends were well-developed with their own attributes. Rather than it being a stereotypical story of three friends growing apart, they stick together even with their separate interests. They hate and love each other, although their “no fighting” rule should have been tested more, as forgiveness seemed too easily achieved when secrets are betrayed. Just like normal teenagers, they sometimes don’t know how or why they do things, only that it feels right at the time. I did feel it slightly unrealistic that someone is allowed to keep his phone after punishment is awarded, especially considering the crime. Observant readers will be able to put the pieces together and determine the identity of the unnamed girl, as there are little hints dropped throughout the story and the rest of the stories build up and catch up to her timeline. Bridget’s brother Jamie and his bet is the humorous subplot that relieves the tension and angst from everything else. Is it as mind-blowing as When You Reach Me? Sorry, no, there are too many times where you question if that would really happen, but still an engaging enough story.