By Rebecca Stead
Available now from Wendy Lamb Books (Penguin Random House)
Rebecca Stead won the Newbery Award for her second novel and became the first non-British author to win the Guardian Award for her third novel. It's quite the pedigree, so expectations are understandably high for GOODBYE STRANGER, her fourth novel.
GOODBYE STRANGER mostly focuses on a group of thirteen-year old girls. Like its protagonists straddle the world of children and teens, GOODBYE STRANGER straddles middle grade and YA. It is a book that lives in liminal spaces. Bridge, who narrates the most often, survived a horrific accident and has internalized that that means she's meant for more. But more what?
Her best friends Emily and Tabitha seem to be growing away from her, and all three struggle to navigate the changes in their friendship. Emily has physically matured the fastest, and she's getting resulting attention from guys. Tabitha, meanwhile, has fallen into the first blush of feminist fervor. Sherm is a boy who tells most of his story through letters to his grandfather that he doesn't seem. An unnamed narrator tells her story aside from the others, in a different time and an older place but still struggling with past friends and who she wants to be with or without them.
The threads of Bridge, Sherm, and You's stories come together in delightful ways. Stead writes with a deft lightness that conceals just how much work she's doing to make all the pieces fit. It also helps keep the book suitable for younger readers while appealing to older ones. The darkest storyline in GOODBYE STRANGER involves scandalous photos texted between an underage girl and guy. It's tackled perhaps with too much optimism, but I liked how the consequences and hurt were dealt with in a way that made it clear that made it clear that many dumb decisions were made but that it wasn't wrong for the girl to have sexual feelings.
GOODBYE STRANGER is another terrific novel from a celebrated author in children's fiction. There's definitely a reason to get excited about a release from Stead.