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Excerpt from Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Goodbye Stranger

by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead X
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2015, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2017, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

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Instead, she put down the spoon, picked up her pen and wrote:

What is love?

This was her assignment: Answer the question "What is Love?"

In full sentences.

She looked at the empty blue lines on the page and tried to imagine them full of words. Love is __________.

Her mom had once told her that love was a kind of music. One day, you could just . . . hear it.

"Was it like that when you met Dad?" Bridge asked. "Like hearing music for the first time?"

"Oh, I heard the music before that," her mom said. "And I danced with a few people before I met Daddy. But when I found him, I knew I had a dance partner for life."

But Bridge couldn't write that. And anyway, her mom was a cellist. Everything was about music to her.

She was almost out of time. She squeezed her eyes closed until she saw glittery things floating in the dark. Then her eyes flipped open and she started writing, quickly.

Love is when you like someone so much that you can't just call it "like," so you have to call it "love."

It was only one sentence, but she was out of time.


Bridge had noticed the cat ears earlier that morning, on the shelf above her desk, where they'd been sitting since the previous Halloween. They felt strange at first, and made the sides of her head throb a tiny bit when she chewed her cereal, but they quickly became a comforting presence. When she was small, her father would sometimes rest his hand on her head as they walked down the street. It was a little bit like that.

Bridge stopped just outside the front doors of her school, slipped her phone out of her pocket, texted her mom:

At school.

XOXO, her mom texted back.

Bridge's mother was on an Amtrak train, coming home from a performance in Boston with her string quartet. Bridge's father, who owned a coffee place a few blocks from their apartment, had to be at the store by 7:00 a.m. And her brother, Jamie, left early for high school. His subway ride was almost an hour long.

So there had been no one at home that morning to make her think twice about the cat ears. Not that anyone in her family was the type to try to stop her from wearing them in the first place. And not that she was the type to be stopped.


Tabitha was next to Bridge's locker, waiting. "Hurry up, the bell's about to ring."

"Okay." Bridge faced her locker and puckered up. "One, two . . ." She leaned in and kissed the skinny metal door.

"Nice one. You can stop doing that anytime, you know."

Bridge spun her lock and jerked the door open. "Not until the end of the month." Seventh grade was the year they finally got to have lockers, and Bridge swore she was going to kiss hers every day until the end of September.

"You have ears," Tab said. "Extra ones, I mean."

"Yeah." Bridge put both hands up and touched the rounded tips of her cat ears. "Soft."

"They're sweet. You gonna wear them all day?"

"Maybe." Madame Lawrence might make her take them off, she knew. But Bridge didn't have French on Mondays.

If she had French on Mondays, life would really be unfair.


The next day she wore them again.

"Un chat!" Madame Lawrence said, pointing as Bridge took her seat in French, at the very back of the room. And Bridge's head tingled in the way that happens when someone points. But that was all.

By Wednesday, the ears felt like a regular part of her.



Valentine's Day

You paint your toenails.

You don't steal nail polish, though Vinny calls you chicken: All of her polish comes from the six-dollar manicure place. Every month, she puts another bottle in her pocket while the lady is getting the warm towel for her hands. You told her you want to be a lawyer and can't be stealing stuff. She rolled her eyes. Then Zoe rolled her eyes. Vinny's eye-rolls are perfect dives, but Zoe always tries too hard. Her lids tremble and her eyeballs look like they might disappear into her head.

Excerpted from Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. Copyright © 2015 by Rebecca Stead. Excerpted by permission of Wendy Lamb Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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