Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye StrangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review copy provided by Netgalley

The story of Bridge and her friends is one that is sure to resonate with readers long after they finish. The primary theme is peer pressure and the evolution of friendships, and boy, does it hit that topic hard. Told from multiple points of view in a non-linear style, the story can be a little hard to follow at first, much like Rebecca Stead's other writing, but in much the same way as other work, if you persevere through your initial confusion, you are richly rewarded for your efforts. This is a book about the experience that all children go through as they enter junior high or middle school. Friendships are tested as children evolve and drawn in different directions. In some cases, friendships can't withstand that change. In others, they can and do.

Also up for discussion in this book is the effect of social media on the young. This book deals with a middle school student sharing inappropriate pictures with one another and the fallout that that sharing creates. It is a very uncomfortable topic, and I believe it is presented in a way to allow for that discomfort while also dealing with what a child might go through as a result. Really, it's powerfully presented and will make readers reflective. Even reading this as an adult, I was forced to reflect on how I might handle the situation myself. If I was a teacher and I had to deal with a student in this situation, how would I react? Would I contribute to the problem by reacting poorly, as much of the staff in the school does, or would I be more understanding? I hope for the latter.

Lastly, there is the other story being shared throughout the book. It is the story of a mystery character, one that you slowly come to realize is somehow connected to the central plot of the story, though you have to put it together piece by piece. It's another of story of friendships evolving and changing as a girl finds that her old friends are less and less relatable and maybe aren't the friends that they once were.

Ultimately, this is a story about the pressures of growing up. It's a story about the inevitable loss of innocence that teens undergo and how the relationships that they maintain help and hinder them in that process. Each character has their own life and questions that they must face, but their bonds, both good and bad, with other characters impact how they go about their individual lives.

Readers will be in for quite a journey when they read this. It's exhausting at times, but well worth the effort as all readers are sure to see themselves and others in the lives of the characters. This is not a story with good and bad guys, but people that making choices and dealing with the consequences of their actions. Beautifully presented, and memorably resolved. Great book.

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