I bought Rebecca Stead’s novel for two particular reasons: 1) I saw Fats bought it and 2) It won a Newbery Medal. I wasn’t so sure what it was about, but my copy was sold at roughly 1.5 US Dollars. It was cheap for a hardbound. You can say I impulsively bought it. Having finished it, I realize it was worth the impulsiveness.
The narrative is written by our protagonist, Miranda, as a letter telling the events of what happens to her each day since she and her best friend stopped hanging out together. This letter came about when a mysterious note founds its way into Miranda’s things. The note read: I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.
The mystery itself makes this book interesting enough for any reader. It begs the reader to ask: Who is this note writer? Where do the notes come from? How does the note-writer slip these notes into Miranda’s bag. But Stead doesn’t stop there. She introduces a gamut of characters that create an interesting picture of school life for Miranda. Her characters are engaging, their emotions, back-stories and decisions reveal the various issues individual children can deal with.
Stead does not dwell too much into the various issues, but she touches on them enough to make the reader stop, think and consider. She tackles friendship, crushes, race, epilepsy, single motherhood, discrimination, class difference, and delinquency with a sleight of hand that brings justice to the issues and creates a three dimensional picture of a 12 year old’s life at school.
But this book’s anchor is on Madeleine L’engle’s story A Wrinkle in Time and the whole idea of time travel. This book doesn’t really talk about the title, however, it does mention the story and the characters in many ways it presupposes that the reader has read the book. I haven’t read it, but I’m familiar with the story.
He pointed at my book. Time travel. Some people think it’s possible. Except those ladies lied, at the beginning…They’re time traveling through time right? All over the universe, right? And they promise that girl that they’ll have her back home five minutes before she left. But they don’t”
This discussion between Miranda and Marcus connects them to a story they never knew they were part of, where the theory of time travel is tested and proven. For the older readers who have read the The Time Traveler’s Wife, Stead’s depiction of time travel is almost the same. The time travel cannot bring anything with them, hence they come to one time naked. This even makes the book interesting.
When You Reach Me is a puzzle. The author interweaves the story without forcing anything. Each layer unravels at the perfect time, she lets the reader join in figuring out the answer to all the questions. It is engaging in its layering, it doesn’t prolong nor reveals too soon. I think young and older readers would enjoy this book. Discussions can be endless, as readers touch on the possibility of time travel, the interconnectedness of lives and the cause and effect of things.
With characters that aren’t flat and are complex enough to be real, When You Reach Me does not only lead its reader to revisit L’engle’s book, but also allows the reader to think of their surroundings, the people around them and the possibility of meeting their future selves at present time.
Winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal
Winner of the 2010 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction & Poetry
2009 Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 96 (35)
Newbery Reading Challenge Update: 4 of 12