Welcome to This Book is My Jam, a semi-regular feature in which I talk about a book I recently read and really loved. I read books written for kids, teens, and adults, so it could be aimed at any age group.
You know those books that the more you think about them, the more you remember the characters, and the more you sit with them, the more you love them? That’s Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead for me. I really enjoyed it when I read it, but I finished it over a month ago and just can’t let it go. I want more people I know to read it so we can talk about it. If I had a middle school aged daughter, I’d want us to read it together and talk about it. In fact, in writing this review, I decided to bump my Goodreads rating up to 5 stars.
Here’s why I loved this book:
- The relationships between the women and girls in the book. I thought this was going to go in a mean girl direction at one point, and it really didn’t. The story centers around 3 girls who have been friends for forever and have decided that they will never fight. While they figure out that this may be unrealistic, they are (mostly) supportive of each other and really try to embody what it means to be good friends. There’s also a lot of time given to mother/daughter relationships, and the conversations the girls have with their mothers are authentic and wonderful. There’s an older sister who makes an appearance and takes one of the girls under her wing. It’s really a tribute to the wonderful richness of female friendships and relationships and shows how positive those can be.
- The portrayal of middle school. I said in my Goodreads review that I wasn’t sure these kids sounded like middle schoolers, and I stand by that, but I do think the way middle school is portrayed is accurate. Boys who want girls to send them a certain kind of picture: that’s a thing. Pushing boundaries and trying to figure out who you may be: that’s most definitely a thing. A lot of the books that deal with middle school are aimed younger than this, and present a somewhat sanitized version of what middle school is. I thought this was honest, and aimed at older middle schoolers, and I think more books like that are needed.
- The characters. This is a really character-driven novel and I loved all of them. As I’m writing this, I realize I miss them!
For me, Rebecca Stead just keeps getting better and better, and Goodbye Stranger was most definitely my jam.