Thursday, July 6, 2017

Book Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Title: When You Reach Me
Author: Rebecca Stead
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Date Published: July 14th, 2009

Description (from Goodreads): "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."

Spoiler Alert: The remainder of the review will feature spoilers. 

This review will probably a bit shorter than normal, as I made very few notes during my reading, and with tons going on between when I finished the book and when I'm writing this post, my memory has gotten a bit hazy on many of the details.

I do remember, however, just how delightful this novel was to read. Continuing on my summer journey to read more Children's/YA lit, this middle grade proved to be another stellar read. Most every middle grades book I've read (at least as an adult) has sounded like you'd think -- fairly simplistic language, with simple and straightforward themes, ya know, meant for kids between 8-12.  Yet, Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me seemed to transcend the traditional sound of a middle grades book, and simple it was not. The book very quickly moved into a mystery (on the very first page of my Kindle edition), one that had me trying very hard to Sherlock Holmes the ending before I reached it -- I didn't. More, the book posed deep, intellectual questions for the 12-year old narrator, Miranda, revolving around time and space, philosophy, and death. While I don't think Stead necessarily has answer to any of these questions, the book certainly got me thinking about these questions, and kept me entertained throughout.

Perhaps this is because I'm a big-time Doctor Who fan, but I absolutely loved the book's treatment of time and time travel. When You Reach Me cleverly handles time, both in the structure of the book and throughout the plot, allowing the ending to surprise even most deductive of readers. The sort of roundabout return of Marcus aka The Laughing Man feels like something I should have foreshadowed considering his seeming obsession with time travel, yet I didn't -- maybe the kids will.

The point-of-view was absolutely great, and Miranda's voice was fun to read. I'm a stickler for good characters (who isn't?), and I enjoyed the realistic and individual characters within. I also dig the setting, 1970's New York City, though I do have quite the affinity for the Big Apple, and I like many books situated there.

The story was an absolute pleasure, combining elements of sci-fi and time travel with mystery, all while handling themes of friendship, family, death, and class/race. I'd recommend this book to most every reader, and I'm looking forward to checking out more of Rebecca Stead's titles in the future.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

No comments:

Post a Comment