When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Number of pages: 208
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked
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 have not 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.
* * *
I’ve wanted to read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead for the longest time but for some reason, I never got around to reading it. Or getting myself a copy. There was a time when I saw a hardcover copy of this book on sale, but I let it go thinking I could find it again and go back for it. But alas, it was gone. And so I was on the lookout for another sale copy of this it proved elusive, until I finally got a full-price, brand new copy using one of my Fully Booked gift certificates.
I’ve heard really good stuff about When You Reach Me and the thing is, it’s best not to be spoiled about the elements of the story. So I’ll try not to be spoilery! :) It’s 1979, and Miranda and her best friend Sal knew everything about their New York City neighborhood. She lived a pretty normal life, until Sal got punched on their way home for no reason. Miranda’s life starts to come undone at this point, and it doesn’t help that she received some strange letters from someone who needs her help. As the letters come, she realized that whoever wrote the letter knew many things about her, things that other people don’t and shouldn’t know. She wished she could just ignore them, but what if the notes are true, and only she can stop someone from dying?
I loved Miranda’s voice from the very start — she reminds me of those characters I loved reading as a child. She’s a kid, but she’s also very mature and I liked how she viewed the world and her family and the conversations she had with them. I liked how you know from the start that this isn’t a normal middle grade novel, and it wasn’t even before I really discovered the mystery in it. The fact that Miranda’s mom is joining a game show so they could win $20,000 is already a clue that this book is different, and I knew I would like this book even before I was halfway done.
There’s a sci-fi element in this book that built the mystery up, and I have to admit that it got me a bit confused at first. I was really constantly guessing about who sent the letters and I was kind of glad that my hunch wasn’t correct, because I was really surprised at how it all ended up. I liked the conversations of the characters of the book even if they’re not the type of things I talked about when I was their age.
This book also made me curious about A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which I never read. I know, it seems like required reading for so many kids, but it skipped me! The only L’Engle book I read when I was younger was Meet the Austins, which is connected to the characters there, I think? Anyway, even if I never read the book, I liked how it was very anchored to that, and it gives for additional reading for kids (and adults) who end up really liking When You Reach Me.
I really enjoyed reading this book, and I think my sci-fi loving friends will appreciate this too. Oh, this is a giveaway, but if you liked the Japanese animated movie The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and the TV series Doctor Who, then I’m pretty sure you’d like this book too (and vice versa). :)