Friday, November 13, 2009

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead


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.

First of all, this book, according to, is listed under the age group 9-12. While I can see that this book might appeal to 12 year olds because the protagonist of the novel is 12, I couldn't even grasp the concepts Stead was talking about wholly. My point being, I think labeling specific age groups to books is deceiving. I'm not saying 9-12 year olds can't enjoy this gem of a novel but I am saying that 21 years olds (like myself) can also enjoy it. And I also know sometimes it's a little off-putting to go into the children's section of the library to look for a book (especially the library of the high school you teach where your students see you). I'm not saying that the literature is juvenile or that I'm somehow dumber because I'm not choosing books in the Romance or Science Fiction (adults) section- but there is that stigma that if a book is listed as 9-12 then it is for a reason. So what do we do to erase that? Well, I can start with this review.

I couldn't put this book down. I just picked it up from the library yesterday and started it late last night. Every sentence is important in this novel and I felt that I needed to really take in every single word. Nothing was arbitrary. Miranda, the protagonist, was such a great character. I felt like I could really relate to her through her many journeys: of forgiveness, friendship, love, family, and the mystery that fell upon her. This novel packed so, so much into 197 pages. But you know what? I didn't feel like a single thing was rushed-Stead writes the novel in a way that is right to the point but you can only get there if you really engage with, like I said earlier, every sentence.

Stead vividly describes life in New York in the late seventies. I felt like I was actually there because she was writing in a way that didn't make you feel like she was shouting "hey everyone I'm writing about a different period in American history than now!" she was just writing like living in the seventies wasn't any big deal-it just was.

The science fiction aspect of this novel was so brilliantly woven into reality that it was easy to forget that-hey wait a minute, this isn't really possible. But then again, maybe it is. I just loved trying to solve the mystery and seeing Miranda and her friends grow together. Every character was special. Miranda's mom and Richard were heartwarmingly charming. Miranda's friends Annemarie, Colin, Julia, and Sal were each so distinct and interesting. Stead didn't skimp on any details or development. And the ending, well, if you're not deeply touched than I'm not sure you can ever be!

If you couldn't tell by my reveiw, I absolutely reccommend this novel to anyone and everyone.

Rating: 5.0

Happy Reading!


Jill of The O.W.L. said...

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book! It was amazing the way it was put together. Like you said EVERY word fit and was needed. Nothing was wasted.

Lost in a Book said...

I'm glad you liked it as much as I did! :)

Anonymous said...

Such a good book!
I loved it soooo much!
I wish they're was a second book!

Anonymous said...

such a good book!

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