When You Reach Me – Rebecca Stead

When You Reach MeBook Review, by Grace Heine

Title: When You Reach Me
Written by: Rebecca Stead
Genre: Mystery, Science-Fiction
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Publication Date: July 14, 2009
Paperback: 199 pages

I still think about the letter you asked me to write. It nags at me, even though you’re gone and there’s no one to give it to anymore. Sometimes I work on it in my head, trying to map out the story you asked me to tell, about everything that happened this past fall and winter. It’s all still there, like a movie I can watch when I want to. Which is never.” (page 2)

The Laughing Man lived on the corner, kicking his foot into the street, and shouting at the sky. Everyday Miranda and Sal walked past him on their way home from school. In fact, Miranda and Sal did everything together. They watched television together, counted hexagon bathroom tiles together, and had sleepovers together. Then Sal got punched and overnight everything changed. Sal didn’t have lunch with her, he didn’t come over to her apartment, he didn’t even talk to her. As Mira tries to figure out what happened she finds a mysterious note that speaks of a friend in danger, things that can’t be true, and how she must write a letter of things that have yet to be.

I’m going to give you a hint: this book is not about what you think it’s about.

Yes, this book is about friends and middle school drama, but it’s also about loyalty, even when it hurts. Yes, this book is about an absentminded genius, but it’s also about normal people – flawed and faulty people. Yes, this book is about New York City in the winter of 1978-1979, but it’s also about the impossible being quite possible.

And yes, it’s about broccoli.

I stumbled across this book last year when I was doing my self-imposed “Read One-Hundred-and-Four New Books in a Year” challenge. (Ended up reading one-hundred and five because one was a reread.)

Anyway, near the end of the year I got too far behind on my book count and in shameful desperation Googled “Best short books ever”. Along with The Westing Game, The Giver, and Breakfast at Tiffany’sWhen You Reach Me popped up near the top of the list. I skimmed about half of the synopsis, decided it didn’t sound as boring as Accessible Love Stories or The Sorrows of Young Werther, and checked it out from the library.

I read – and I was bored.

There’s a girl.

There’s a boy.

Something happens to their friendship.

Girl finds mysterious note.

Fifty pages of friendship drama.

Oh yeah, about that note …

I felt like there was a cool story going on with the note but it was being overshadowed by middle school crises.

Then I got to the end reveal and had to refrain from whacking myself with the book.

Never doubt Rebecca Stead.

Everything. Every little minor detail, had a purpose. All the things I tried not to fall asleep reading were carefully staged setups for the climax.

It was right there in front of me, so close to my nose that I had been looking at it cross-eyed.

It was beautiful.

To be fair, if I had actually read the entire synopsis I’m not sure the reveal would have felt as incredible – but even so, it’s an awesome revelation.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It the one of the best science-fiction books I have ever read, ranking second or third only to Ender’s Game. Although When You Reach Me is a children’s book, I think older teens, and even adults, can enjoy it as long as they don’t mind the twelve-year-old protagonist.

For More Information about the Book and Author Click: HERE

Age Range: 9 – 16

Cautions –

Violence: Sal is punched. Laughing Man hits himself. A boy breaks his arm. A man is hit by a truck.

Sensuality: Two ladies had kids while they were unmarried. Richard stays the night at Miranda’s house. Miranda talks about how cute a boy is and become jealous when her fiend spends time with him. Two characters who work together at a restaurant are referred to as “Counter Couple.” Two characters kiss.

Profanity: H–l is said and God’s name is taken in vain a few times.

Other: Miranda’s mom steals from work. Miranda steals grapes. A naked man is running around town. Colin is jokingly called “Lady”. Jimmy blames Julia for a theft because she’s black. There is talk about evolution and how God isn’t real.

Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Cleanness Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Grace Heine is a sixteen-year-old wanna be writer who spends most of her time reading, writing, playing piano, or finding clever ways to be unproductive. You can visit her book review blog here.

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