From the introduction, ‘Goodbye Stranger‘ catches the reader. The thought of our storyteller, Bridge, surviving a near- fatal traffic accident, living with the comment that she ‘survived for a reason’ is curious. Then we meet her again, when she is older. She has taken to wearing cats’ ears each day, and is caught in a pinky-promise-never-fight-best friend triangle with two other girls. Each has vastly different directions and impulses.
‘But Bridge understood that life didn’t balance anymore. Life was a too-tall stack of books that had started to lean to one side, and each new day was another book on top.’
In the background, we share a frenzied day in the life of an anonymous girl, known to Bridge, forced to skip school, after making a decision forced by friendships, which she then regrets.
This is like ‘Friends’ for young adult readers, but without the sophistication and overconfidence. We feel for each of the characters, from Em, grown too fast too young, Sherm, honourable and cautious, despite his anger with his absent grandfather, and Jamie, Bridge’s older brother, caught up in a neighbour’s ever more ridiculous dares.
Rebecca Stead is able to move time and characters like a magician. We are engrossed in the worries and actions of her characters and see them play out across a sort of New York City chessboard. Goodbye Stranger is a really impactful, strong and moving story.