Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Pages: 199
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Published: July 14th, 2009
IBSN: 9780385737425

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, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street 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 a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. 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.

[Synopsis by Goodreads]

I first heard about When I Reach You when an author mentioned it in a blog post. I borrowed it from my library soon after, read it, finished it, and wondered how I had only just heard of it.

I immediately felt a connection with our protagonist, Miranda. She's 12 years old, and keeps receiving weird, anonymous notes from someone who knows things that no one couldn't possibly know. She writes about her life around the time of receiving the notes from some time after she figures out what they mean, often addressing the sender in the prose.

The plot is clever and complicated, and even in the slow parts, never boring. The subplots are all interesting, and tie up together in the end, all related. For some parts, I had to sit and think for a bit, figure it all out, and I love books like that - ones you need to get your head around.

I liked how A Wrinkle In Time was tied into the novel, foreshadowing the time traveling themes. Without something like that, I think the time traveling aspect would have seemed really random.

The writing style is plain and simple, appropriate for the young protagonist. Her observations, thoughts and mannerisms are well-written, and they make her both a relatable and a likable character.

The ending was bittersweet, but still a satisfying and fitting conclusion to the story. Miranda didn't play a big role in the denouement, but was more a bystander, though I admired how when it was all over, she thought more about what this meant for other characters than what it meant for herself.

The short version: I adored this book. Go find a copy and read it. Already read it? Go find your copy - I think it's about time you read it again, don't you? I know I'll read it over and over again.

I give When You Reach Me a 6 out of 5 (a somewhat illogical rating I save for my favorite books).