Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

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Text Publishing, 2015. ISBN 9781925240320
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Bridge, Tabitha and Emily swore that they wouldn't fight but now that they are in Grade 7, things are beginning to change. Emily has connected with the soccer team, Bridge has taken to wearing cat's ears all the time and Tab is obsessed with a feminist teacher. Then Emily begins to text pictures of herself to Patrick and the girls find themselves with problems. At the same time, another teen is skipping school and going through pangs of remorse because she has betrayed her best friend.
This is a stunning read about making mistakes, the joys and tribulations of friendships and growing up by a wonderful author who writes in a very sympathetic and compassionate way. The reader knows that Emily will get into trouble when she starts sending photos of herself to Patrick and receiving ones from him. Even though Bridge and Tab try to persuade her of the folly of doing it, Bridge still helps her take a photo. The way the girls handle this misstep and the consequences of the mistake make for spell-binding reading. At the same time an unnamed girl is relating the mistake she has made about telling a secret to a friend who can't be trusted, and the reader is kept guessing just who this might be.
The relationships between Emily and Patrick and Bridge and Sherm are handled with a deft touch. Sherm is angry with his grandfather, who has left his grandmother after 50 years of marriage, and the reader finds out about this in a series of letters that he writes but doesn't post. It is unusual to read about divorce between an older couple and Stead shows how a marriage break-up can affect people of all ages. Tab too comes to realise that she must act responsibly within her feminist beliefs. Stead also subtly shows the physical differences that can occur as girls grow up. Emily's body has matured and she is becoming much more interested in boys, while Bridge is still looking young.
Utimately this is an unforgettable book about young girls coming of age written with wit and compassion. It would make an interesting Literature Circle book engendering discussion about the appropriateness of sending photos, what makes a good friend and how to overcome the consequences of a bad decision.
Pat Pledger