When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When I was in New York, my cousin mentioned to me a book she had recently read that she thought was just wonderful. She couldn’t quite remember the title, but using the clues she gave me, Mike and I hunted it down and I put it on hold at the public library. I was still working on Swimming by Nicola Keegan when Mike finished the book he was reading, so I offered him this one instead. From his response, I knew I was going to love it. I finished it this morning, and all I can say is that it is a really special book, and I can’t wait to pass it on.

When You Reach Me is the story of Miranda, a sixth grader living in New York and the people around her. Her mom has been accepted as a contestant on the $20,000 Pyramid Game, so the chapters are titled things like “Things That Smell” and “Invisible Things.” Which I thought was particularly adorable. We meet her friends and her former friends at school, follow her as she begins to work for 40 minutes a day in a sandwich shop, and watch her struggle with embarrassment when it comes to her mother’s behavior. Oh, and also she is receiving these mysterious notes from someone who appears to be communicating from the future.

Rebecca Stead says in her acknowledgments that she owes a debt of gratitude to Madeleine L’Engle (well-chosen, I say, for she is someone to admire indeed), and this book’s juxtaposition of very real teen/pre-teen issues and science-fiction/fantasy reminds me very much of L’Engle’s style. I am thinking here specifically of A Ring of Endless Light and its combination of Vicky’s realistic problems (love triangle, sick grandfather) with the idea that she can somehow communicate with dolphins. This book brings together very real thoughts about friendship, choices, and the kind of person you want to be. And also there is the question of time travel.

My cousin said there’s some Newbery buzz about this book, and I can see why. It was wonderful, a worthy heir to A Wrinkle in Time. And you should know that’s not something I would say lightly. It was a lovely book and I am so happy that it found its way into my hands.

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