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 freak her out the most because they reveal things no one should know, things that haven't even happened yet. But even though Miranda would like to forget all the crazy new things in her life, especially the notes, she can't, because as unbelievable as the messages seem, the impending tragic death they warn of doesn't feel like a lie. And Miranda might be the only one who can prevent it, if she can only truly understand the notes before it's too late.
When You Reach Me is a truly delightful and remarkably unique story that incorporates themes as simple as friendship and love to concepts as complex as the scientific possibility of time travel. Readers will be drawn into Miranda's story from the first page with the exciting air of mystery Stead creates. The mystery of the notes is probably the most thrilling aspect of this novel, with their seemingly unexplainable appearances and threat of real danger, but all the other sections of the story are also similarly well developed. Stead does a fantastic job of making When You Reach Me believable, even with farfetched theories such as time travel. Miranda, somewhat precocious, and the rest of the cast are three-dimensional characters easy to understand. Stead also portrays the tween years well, when peers' opinions start to make an impact and guy-girl interaction is more about tentative crushes. It's a rare gem when you find a novel that successfully and wonderfully combines a realistic version of everyday life with complicated scientific mystery as much as Stead has in When You Reach Me. In fact, Stead's storytelling skills are so advanced, I'm surprised this novel is classified as middle grade; the only things middle grade about it are Miranda and her friends' ages and the air of innocence to the story. I think the middle grade audience may even have some difficulty understanding the discussion of time travel; I know I did at times. But as well as that slight confusion, this novel also provokes deep thought of the complexities of modern science, and faith and hope in the future.
When You Reach Me will be enjoyed by readers of all ages, from middle grade up. This novel, one of the sweetest and most genius I've ever read, will be enjoyed by those who liked A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, a novel much referenced in this story.
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 … more
THE BOOK MUNCHER is the reviewing alias of a prolific teen reader. She is guilty of several overflowing bookshelves in multiple states. Her literary diet is mostly dedicated to the young adult fiction … more
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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