Marshmallow reviews Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

A couple years ago Marshmallow read and reviewed When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Today she reviews another book from the same author published in 2015: Goodbye Stranger.

Marshmallow reviews Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow reviews Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about family, friendship, and mystery, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Bridge is an accident survivor. She has missed all of third grade, and had to learn how to live normally again. When she returned to school, her friend Tabitha (Tab) introduced her to Emily (Em), and the three of them became best friends, the set of fourth graders who drew animals in the corner of their homework. (Bridge draws a Martian, Tab draws a funny bird, and Em draws a spotted snake.)

They are now starting seventh grade and are in middle school. They are still best friends, but some things have changed. Em turned out to be really good at sports, and her body has started to change, which has attracted some attention. Tab is now a “know-it-all” and has become very interested in social action/change and feminism.

The three girls are best friends and they all follow one rule: no fighting. But they have encountered some difficulty with this rule since they started middle school. Bridge has become very good friends with a boy named Sherm. She has joined the Tech Crew with him. But she finds herself confused about how she feels about him. But the worst problem of all is Em’s. She has made a critical mistake, regarding a boy, and the repercussions threaten to tear the trio apart. 

Different chapters of the book are told in different voices. In some chapters we read the letters Sherm writes to his grandfather. He never sends them though. Sherm’s grandfather left his family and ran off with some woman that is not Sherm’s grandmother. Sherm doesn’t think that he can forgive his grandfather for leaving them, ever. Sherm also has trouble identifying his feelings toward Bridge. Sherm writes down the events of the book in these letters, from his point of view, ending each letter with the amount of time left before his grandfather’s birthday, something they used to do before he left. 

The third set of chapters is written in the voice of an unknown highschooler (who knows the previous characters mentioned). This particular person is having big problems with her friends, specifically Vinny. Vinny is pretty, smart, and popular, and the unknown highschooler used to be best friends with her, until she (the anonymous highschooler) finally realized how cruel she was. Vinny likes to play a “tasting game” where she blindfolds a person and feeds them something. If she likes you, she gives you a banana or something. If she doesn’t like you, she gives you a spoon of black pepper. The unknown student brings another girl, named Gina, to meet Vinny, and Vinny feeds her pepper during the game. The unknown teenager struggles to understand whether the Vinny she knew when she was younger is still there, under the cruelty. 

Marshmallow is reading Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow is reading Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead.

Marshmallow’s Review: Goodbye Stranger is a good book. I found it interesting that the name of the anonymous highschooler is unknown until the end, and that it turns out to be someone who has been there since the beginning. I didn’t guess who it was at all. As I said before, the book is told from multiple perspectives: Bridge, Sherm, and the unknown girl. I think that this made it more interesting. And the three voices are quite different from one another. All of Sherm’s chapters are in the form of letters written to a grandfather, while Bridge’s chapters are narrated in the third person. The unknown highschooler chapters, on the other hand, keep using “you”, which leaves a totally different flavor in the end.

I think that Goodbye Stranger is probably better for middle schoolers and up. There are some things that might be confusing for younger children. For example, I think Caramel might not understand all of the plot.

One minor thing I felt was not perhaps ideal was the way the most idealistic of the three girls, Tab, was treated, both by others in the book and by the author, too, in the end. I think Tab was perhaps a bit too naive and perhaps a bit too strong with her passion for an equitable and just world, but I think those are valuable things to hope and work for, and I did not appreciate that she was too often dismissed and not taken seriously.

Overall though, I think that the author, Rebecca Stead, did a great job with this book. The characters are unique and realistic, and also very understandable. Rebecca Stead also wrote When You Reach Me, which I reviewed before. I did like that book a lot, too, but I think that Goodbye Stranger is even better.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead 100%.
Marshmallow rates Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead 100%.

Marshmallow reviews When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

This week Marshmallow reviews When You Reach Me, a 2009 novel by Rebecca Stead.

Marshmallow reviews When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow reviews When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like mystery or science fiction, or if you enjoyed reading other books written by Rebecca Stead, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Twelve-year old Miranda, a sixth grader in New York City in the late 1970s, has just started to receive notes that tell her that someone is coming to save her friend’s life and their own. Here is the first note:

“M,
This is hard. Harder than I expected, even with your help. But I have been practicing, and my preparations go well. I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I ask two favors.
First, you must write me a letter.
Second, please remember to mention the location of your house key.
The trip is a difficult one. I will not be myself when I reach you.”

After this first note, Miranda starts to receive more notes. These notes say that she must not share them with anybody and that she must believe the notes. Then the person starts to send proof of what they’re saying is true. For example, the note says “Tesser well” and then her mother’s boyfriend gives her a copy of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle signed by Madeleine L’Engle that says “Tesser well”.

In the middle of this, Miranda is also having school trouble. Her mom is preparing to go on a game show with the hopes of winning a large sum of money. Miranda is also having some problems with her best friend Sal.

There is in short a lot going on in Miranda’s life, and though some of it is normal kid stuff, the secret notes make things all quite mysterious. (And if you want to know more, you have to read the book!)

Marshmallow is reading When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow is reading When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

Marshmallow’s Review: This is a great book. It has a very interesting but also a very complex plot, and the reader may have a hard time finding who wrote the notes.

I think that this is also a very good book because the author, Rebecca Stead, is great at creating characters. My favorite character is probably Julie or Miranda. Miranda is really realistic, and she does things that make her unique, like tying and untying knots. 

This book might be a little hard to understand for kits (baby bunnies) because of its complex plot, and it is also not a particularly easy book to read. I think therefore that it would probably be best for bunnies aged eight and up. 

I think the best part of this book is that the author is an expert at making the reader want to finish the book soon. The mystery is great because the reader wouldn’t be able to guess who the writer of the notes is because they are concealed by the author wonderfully. I think that this is a great book that is an excellent mix of mystery and science fiction and many other genres.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead 100%.
Marshmallow rates When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead 100%.