Rating: 4.5 out of 5
By the sixth grade, Miranda has learned how to get by in New York City. She and her only friend Sal walk to school together, avoiding the big loud boys in front of the garage and the laughing man on the corner. But then one of the boys punches Sal, and everything starts to change. Sal refuses to hang out with Miranda anymore, and she is forced to make new friends and explore different things in school.
Miranda also starts receiving mysterious letters from a person who knows eerily too much about her life and the future. Who is this person who wants Miranda to write an explanatory letter, claiming that she knows who he is? He claims to know how to save her friend’s life…but who is in danger, and what will become of them all if Miranda either ignores or acknowledges the letter-writer?
Every once in a while there comes along a book that is so unique, so awe-inspiring, that you have to immediately rave about it to everyone around who reads books. WHEN YOU REACH ME is such a book. Rebecca Stead’s second novel is a middle-grade treasure that people will hopefully stumble upon and love all their lives.
My favorite part about this book was, of course, the sci-fi aspect, which was seamlessly woven into a coming-of-age story set in post-Vietnam War New York City. WHEN YOU REACH ME references Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time heavily, a joy for hardcore fans of Meg and Charles Wallace. It also means that it will appeal to about 95% of readers, though Stead’s appeal is less fantasy and more about how seemingly impossible concepts can fit smoothly into our conceptions of our world. It’s not often that you get to read a science-y book that blows away all your expectations and predictions.
Besides for the sci-fi aspect, WHEN YOU REACH ME is also a charming coming-of-age novel with memorable characters. Miranda deals wonderfully with her family and classmates: she’s at that stage where she struggles to figure out who she thought she was in new situations. Perhaps the characters could’ve been developed slightly more, but readers come out of the experience very much impressed, and will have difficulty finding anything lacking.
In short, WHEN YOU REACH ME is one of 2009’s not-to-be-missed novel. Its lovely blend of realism and sci-fi makes it truly stand out, and Stead’s impeccable writing draws us right into Miranda’s world. Be sure to get your hands on a copy of this book in any way possible!
E. L. Konigsburg
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - It's charming in its own way, but does not really evoke the feel of the story for me. Oh well! It's distinctive, and the story will make an impression on you. What more do you need?
Random House / July 2009 / Hardcover / $15.99
OH HEY LOOK! A chance to win one of 2 copies of When You Reach Me, right here on my blog, thanks, once again, to the generosity of Random House!!! When I said that this was one book you can't miss, even I didn't realize how soon you would have the opportunity to read and own your very own copy, hehe.
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