Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When I finished this book, I said "wow." And wiped away a tear. And kicked myself for having waited so long to read it.

First of all, while I don't think it's necessary to have read Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time to enjoy this book, it sure would be a help (and an even bigger help to have read it numerous times, like Miranda, the protagonist. Luckily I read it tons as a kid, and reread it about 5 years ago.) From the beginning, the book is a bit of a mystery, with Miranda having been directed by someone she doesn't know to write a letter about events that have taken place. Miranda is 12, it is 1979, and she lives in New York City. Recently her best friend, Sal, has decided he doesn't want to be friends with her anymore, which throws a huge wrinkle in her life as he was also her only friend. Miranda starts to branch out and make friends with other students, even picking up a part-time job and befriending a kid she'd thought was a bully. Meanwhile, she starts receiving very mysterious notes that predict events in an eerie way.

I don't want to give away too much, so I will instead talk about how well drawn the city is, and Miranda and the other characters. They are sketched lightly, with minimal details, but they are so alive and three-dimensional and real. From her mother's boyfriend to the homeless man on the corner to the man who runs the sandwich shop, her life is filled with caring, unique, and interesting people that are fully-developed. The city, particularly at that time, feels well-captured (I say as a connoisseur of Norma Klein novels set on the Upper West Side in the 70s.) And the story, while deceptively simple in the beginning, turns out to be complex with small hints along the way (I did flip back through the first 30 pages after I finished and I found a couple of clues that I'd missed the first time that are so clever but not precious.) The book works on many levels, and is perfect for anyone who's even gone through a transition in friendships (so, everyone), or had an opportunity to get to known someone better who she's pre-judged. The twist at the end was brilliant and I loved how it tied everything together. I can see that this will become a classic. A worthy winner of the Newbery Medal.

I have no idea where I got this book. I've had it for years--it's a hardcover pre-Newbery and it's obviously already been read--but I did not get it from the publisher. Maybe at a book swap? Or used bookstore?

1 comment:

Kay said...

I read this book several years ago and concur. A very worthy winner of the Newbery. It's probably about time that I read it again. :-)