The back of this book describes it as "a remarkable novel (that) takes place in the real world, but holds a fantastic puzzle at its heart. When You Reach Me is original and a brilliant and profound delight."
Wow -- how can a book live up to that kind of hype?? I don't know, but this one did. It's a perfect description -- this is the real world. Twelve-year-old Miranda lives in NYC in the late 70's, and Stead's characterizations are spot on, with such observations as what the birthright of a latchkey kid is (watching TV and eating junk food). The difficulties of navigating friendships as one grows up is also a key theme.
It's real -- and yet not. When Miranda begins receiving strange notes that seem to come from the future, she is unsure what it means. Her favorite and oft-read book, A Wrinkle in Time, is frequently referenced as she tries to figure out what is happening. The mystery unravels slowly, but the puzzle is not complete until the end of the novel, making for a very satisfying conclusion.
If, like me, you grew up in this time, you will be as delighted as your own tween is at this novel (and my own sixth grader was indeed captivated).
Miranda and Sal have been best friends practically since birth. They did everything together--from daycare naptime to walking to school--until sixth grade when Sal is suddenly punched by the new kid. Sal shuts Miranda out of his life, and that's when Miranda's life starts to spin out of control. The spare key to Miranda's apartment is stolen, the crazy guy on the corner's behavior becomes even stranger, and Miranda starts receiving mysterious notes from an undisclosed person. These notes are what … more
Amazon Best of the Month, July 2009:Shortly after sixth-grader Miranda and her best friend Sal part ways, for some inexplicable reason her once familiar world turns upside down. Maybe it's because she's caught up in readingA Wrinkle in Timeand trying to understand time travel, or perhaps it's because she's been receiving mysterious notes which accurately predict the future. Rebecca Stead's poignant novel,When You Reach Me, captures the interior monologue and observations of kids who are starting to recognize and negotiate the complexities of friendship and family, class and identity. Set in New York City in 1979, the story takes its cue from beloved Manhattan tales for middle graders like E.L. Konigsburg'sFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Louise Fitzhugh'sHarriet the Spy, and Norma Klein'sMom the Wolfman and Me.Like those earlier novels,When You Reach Mewill stir the imaginations of young readers curious about day-to-day life in a big city.--Lauren Nemroff