Friday, January 29, 2010

Middle-Grade Review: When You Reach Me

When I read a review written by Heather at Tales of a Capricious Reader of the middle-grade novel, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, I knew I had to read this book. I immediately requested it at the library. I finished it last night and couldn’t wait to tell you about it! You don’t have to just take my word and Heather’s, though. When You Reach Me recently won the 2010 Newberry Medal and has been at the top of many Best Of 2009 lists.

Miranda, a twelve-year old girl living in New York City in 1978, is pretty happy with her life and her best friend, Sal, until one day in October when everything begins to change. Sal gets punched in the stomach on their way home from school by a boy they don’t even know then suddenly cuts Miranda out of his life. A few days later, Miranda receives the first of several mysterious notes:

This is hard. Harder than I expected, even with your help. But I have been practicing, and my preparations go well. I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.

I ask two favors.

First, you must write me a letter.

Second, please remember to mention the location of your house key.

The trip is a difficult one. I may not be myself when I reach you.

Miranda tries to unravel this strange puzzle, while helping her mother prepare for her appearance on the game show The 20,000 Pyramid. One of my favorite aspects of this book, though, is that Miranda is obsessed with the book A Wrinkle in Time, which just happened to be my favorite book when I was her age!

“Still reading that same book?” Belle asked, once I had settled into my folding chair next to the cash register to read. “It’s looking pretty beat-up.”

“I’m not still reading it,” I told her. “I’m reading it again.” I had probably read it a hundred times, which was why it looked so beat up.

“Okay,” Belle said, “so let’s hear something about this book. What’s the first line? I never judge a book by the cover, “she said. “I judge by the first line.”

I knew the first line of my book without even looking. “It was a dark and stormy night.” I said.

She nodded. “Classic. I like that. What’s the story about?”

I thought for a second. “It’s about a girl named Meg – her dad is missing, and she goes on this trip to another planet to save him.”

Just like Miranda, I read and re-read A Wrinkle in Time when I was a kid, along with the rest of that wonderful series by Madeleine L’Engle. I even played Meg in our class play of the book! I love that Stead used that wonderful, classic novel as the jumping off point for a whole new mystery. And it is a good mystery, one that kept me guessing right up until the last chapter, with a very satisfying conclusion. Stead’s writing kept me interested from the first pages, with characters I came to care about and clever plot twists. Whether you’re a fan of A Wrinkle in Time like I am or just looking for a good story, you’ll love When You Reach Me.

197 pages, Wendy Lamb Books (Random House)


Heather said...

Oh I'm so glad you loved it too. Wasn't it amazing? The biggest accomplishment, in my mind, is that I felt exactly the same reading this as I did reading A Wrinkle in Time. Just delightful!

visionbird said...

Sounds cool! I'm going to look for that at the library!