When Bridget Barsamian was eight years old, she got hit by a car. Skating down the Manhattan street ahead of her friend Tabitha, she turned to look back, and when she turned back she realized that a car was coming through the cross street and it was unavoidable that she and the car were about to meet. One year and four surgeries later, Bridget was as good as new, but she had changed. Every now and then when she saw a car coming she froze. Also, she no longer felt like a Bridget and shortened her name to Bridge. Lastly, when she was discharged from the hospital, a nurse told her “…You must have been put on this earth for a reason, little girl, to have survived.” The question that was stumping her, though, is what is that reason?
Bridge missed third grade but when she returned the following year for fourth grade, Tab introduced her to Emily and the threesome became the ‘set of three’ among the entire fourth grade class, a set that would remain in tact through seventh grade.
Fast forward to the third Monday of seventh grade. For some unknown reason, Bridge wore a pair of black cat ears to school. While at first they felt odd, by Wednesday they became part of her ensemble. It is this year that is recounted in Goodbye Stranger. The book deals with some issues prevalent in the lives of today’s kids. While it follows the seventh grade escapades of Bridge, Tab and Emily, some of which are fun, it also delves into serious issues. It is during seventh grade that boys become a part of their lives when Bridge meets Sherm and Emily meets Patrick. Each must deal with the complicated feelings that surround boys; a boy–friend vs. a boyfriend. Another major story line recounts Sherm’s reaction when his grandfather leaves his wife of 50 years for another woman. Both lived with Sherm and the one moving out creates quite a hole in his life.
The book also follows an anonymous person on Valentine’s Day (which is the title of each chapter dealing with her disillusionment) as she recounts the events leading up to it, her realization that some people are just downright mean and most likely not someone you want to be friends with, regardless of the fact that you are drawn to them.
The convergence of Bridge and Anonymous came as a surprise to me, although my daughter figured it out.
Goodbye Stranger is certainly a ‘coming of age’ story in that the girls must understand their feelings about friendship and love. They must also deal with a situation that they both know is wrong, but weigh friendship against rightness.
Rebecca Stead has populated Goodbye Stranger with some spectacular characters primarily Adrienne, the barista (would be boxer) in Bridge’s dad’s coffee bar, Celeste, Tab’s older sister, and Anonymous.
My one criticism? One significant issue, while handled realistically (probably/possibly), seemed to be minimized…in my mind anyway. Despite that, Goodbye Stranger is a fun read. Some authors write the same book over and over and then others, like Rebecca Stead, keep reinventing themselves, which only increases the anticipation for the next book as soon as you’ve finished the current one.