Sunday, June 27, 2010

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me
Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books, July 2009
Realistic fiction with fantastical elements

A few weeks ago a friend recommended I read When You Reach Me after I told her I had just finished re-reading A Wrinkle in Time. She told me nothing about the plot only that there was a connection to A Wrinkle in Time and that it was amazing. I didn't read the back or anything else about the book, so I really had no idea what it would be about.

After reading about 10 pages I was totally in to it. She was right it was amazing.

Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.

I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that haven’t even happened yet.  Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.
From Rebecca Stead's website

I absolutely loved this book; read it in about two sittings. Everything about it works. The plot may seem a bit confusing and scattered in the beginning, but once you reach the end everything falls into place perfectly.

When You Reach Me is one of the best middle grade books I've read. Stead is very aware of what that age group is looking for and will relate to. Miranda's voice is definitely that of a twelve year old; her actions, thoughts, and concerns are all ones 10-13 year olds can easily relate to. The romance elements are minimal and only hit on first kisses; friendship and growing apart is the major focus. Both of which are perfectly appropriate for middle grade.

Beyond truly knowing her audience, Stead's writing itself is smart. It's interesting from the first line to the last. The book's pretty short, only about 200 pages, but Stead packs every page with important details that all come together at the end of the book. The book is packed with odd, fantastical elements which all must stay consistent throughout the book and come together to make sense in the end. Stead does an amazing job of this.

This book most certainly deserved to win the Newberry Award.

Get this book immediately and begin reading

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