Friday, May 8, 2015

Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye Stranger is the third Rebecca Stead novel I've read. I had to read one of her earlier novels, When You Reach Me, during an undergraduate course. I read Liar and Spy a while ago, and loved it, as did several of my students.

Goodbye StrangerGoodbye Stranger is about several different characters and how their stories intertwine, but at the heart of the novel is Bridge Barsamian. Bridge survived a terrible accident in elementary school and was told by her nurse in the hospital that she must have survived for a reason. So, she's hard at work trying to figure out what that reason is. Bridge has two best friends, Emily and Tab, who have been by her side through it all. However, the novel starts when they're in 7th grade and things are changing. Emily has newfound popularity and curves, and is beginning to experiment with more mature things - sending nude pictures, boys, etc. Bridge and Tab aren't quite ready for that yet, and seem a little less "advanced" than their good friend Emily. But, the three of them navigate this uncharted territory together and come out still friends in the end. This was the only mildly unrealistic part of the novel - I don't think most pre-teen friendships would survive under these circumstances. But maybe it will give readers some hope and a model of how things could work out.

I really loved all the different themes, conflicts, motifs, and stories that blended together during the novel. It keeps things interesting and propelled me to keep on reading. I think my students, specifically female students, will enjoy reading this novel.

Also Try: Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead; Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, by Jordan Sonnenblick

Monday, May 4, 2015

Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen

When I was student teaching in an Honors, single-gender girls program, Sarah Dessen was the fan favorite - my students were constantly passing around her novels, looking for similar authors, and talking about her characters and stories. It's been a while, though, since I've read one of her novels, so I was excited to give Saint Anything a try on NetGalley. 

Saint AnythingSaint Anything is about high schooler Sydney, who's trying to survive in the aftermath of her older brother's terrible decision. Her brother, Peyton, despite paralyzing another boy in a drunk driving incident, remains perfect in her mother's eyes. Sydney, obviously, feels utterly invisible and neglected. I think a lot of kids can relate to that feeling, of being constantly overshadowed by a sibling, and never feeling like they're "good enough". Sydney switches schools from her private, snooty school, to the local public school, and makes a group of friends who help her navigate through the wake of her family's experiences. At the heart of this group of friends are brother and sister duo Mac and Layla, who have family issues of their own. Their guidance and attitudes help Sydney better understand her own problems and her parents' reactions. 

I think that readers who are already Dessen fans will love this novel. However, I'm not sure that new readers will find it as thrilling. The novel had a more psychological slant to it than some of her other romances, and it just didn't seem to 'move' as much as some of her other novels did. I will still recommend it, though!

Also Try: Anything by Sarah Dessen, Susane Colesanti