I'm a major strat fan. Stratocasters are probably the most inconsistent production model guitar I've ever tried. Go to all the stores nearby and try every single strat you can find. In general, the early 80s strats were crap, and 91-98 were crap, but there are always exceptions. I have a '96 Strat Plus 50th Anniversary Edition that I'd still say plays tons better than any other guitar I've played (including my 7VWH, JS10th, my guitar teacher's '57 Tele..). There's a certain magic about Stratocasters. You just have to go out and play a ton of them until you find the one that just clicks with you.
A lot of people these days have been loving the Mexican built strats; they seem to be of much higher quality than they used to. Disregard where it was made and pick the one that feels right to you. If you find one that feels unbelievable, but the tone is a little thin, consider swapping the pickups. A friend of mine has a MIM strat that plays fantastic, but he popped a set of Lindy Fralin pickups in there, and god does it sound amazing. I was very tempted to get a set of Fralins for my strat, but I have to admit, I'm a little scared that if I do anything like that to it, the magic might "disappear."