Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Review: When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. (Grades 5-8.)

It's 1978. Twelve-year-old Miranda lives in New York City, walking to school each day with her best friend Sal and reading A Wrinkle in Time more times than she can count. But then everything changes. Sal refuses to walk to school with Miranda. And Miranda starts finding notes left for her in strange places. Notes that caution her not to tell anyone about them. Notes that seem to predict the future. And if Miranda can figure out who's leaving the notes and what they're telling her to do, she might be able to prevent a tragic death.

When You Reach Me has gotten a lot of hype. I'm always a little skeptical about things that get a lot of hype because I tend to be contrary and not like the stuff that everyone else likes. Um, yeah, this book stood up to the hype. I looooved it.

The first thing that appealed to me is the setting. Set in late-70s New York, When You Reach Me brought me back to those books that I read over and over again as a child*. I'm thinking of Harriet the Spy, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Us and Uncle Fraud... Books that were written in the late 70s and early 80s. None of those books necessarily have anything in common with When You Reach Me as far as plot, but I kept thinking of them as I was reading. Rebecca Stead's got the feel of that time period down.

Then there was the narrative that kept skipping back and forth between present tense and past tense, but not in a confusing way. In a way that made beautiful sense as more of the plot is revealed. Tiny short chapters and a twisty, interesting plot kept me turning the pages and I didn't put the book down until I'd finished the whole thing. Oh, and I totally did not figure out the twist. But I love the twist.

This is a book you won't want to miss. Everyone's talking about it and I wouldn't be surprised to see some shiny stickers on it come award season. Check out the hype:

100 Scope Notes
A Fuse #8 Production
Becky's Book Reviews
Book Nut
Educating Alice
Librarian Pirate
Sarah Miller
The Reading Zone
Welcome to My Tweendom

Oh, I'm so, so glad that I don't have to be the voice of dissent. I can just buzz away like everyone else. Yeah, you're gonna want to read this one.

*Not A Wrinkle in Time. I hated A Wrinkle in Time. And I read it again several years ago and I still hate A Wrinkle in Time.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree about Wrinkle in Time! When I read it as a kid I was so confused and I was afraid of Charles Wallace. He was such a creepy kid. Maybe I should re-read it now to see if I'll like it better.

Janssen said...

I loved this book too.

(And I love A Wrinkle in Time also).

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

I'm on hold for this one at work and can't wait to read it. I may just have to go out and buy myself a copy.

And I really liked A Wrinkle in Time-I could relate to Meg, so I think that's why I enjoyed it. I recently started listening to the audiobook for it and still liked it-I guess because it reminded me of childhood.

librarian pirate said...

I love love loved this book. SO much better than First Light.

librarian pirate said...

And I should somehow learn to be a shameless self-promoter, so I should ask y'all to come read my review as well:
but Abby's is better and says basically the same stuff, so there's little point. (;

Cat Fancy said...

This book is so wonderful! I've found that it is really hard to describe it to people because I don't want to give ANYTHING away. The best way to read this book is to go in knowing absolutely nothing about it. I read a few reviews, so I had the twist kind of figured out when the end came around, but that didn't ruin any of the brilliance.

Faye( Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm) said...

this book looks awesome. I can't wait 2 read it.

Monica Edinger said...

Enjoyed very much reading your review. While I'm a Wrinkle in Time fan I have always felt you didn't need to know it to enjoy this book. Thanks for the link to my blog post. I don't know if you saw it, but I also reviewed it in this past Sunday's New York Times (

Melissa said...

So, Abby, I'll ask you a question that someone asked me: do you think a 9 year old who hasn't read Wrinkle in Time would like this one?

I don't know... it's so much a part of the essence of this book, that maybe you kind of need to read Wrinkle first.

Glad you liked it!

Abby said...

I absolutely don't think you have to read A Wrinkle in Time to get or like When You Reach Me.

And you also don't have to enjoy A Wrinkle in Time to enjoy this book (case in point: Me).

Monica Edinger said...

Melissa, ditto to what Abby said. I read it to my class of 4th graders (9 and 10 years old) and only one of them knew A Wrinkle in Time.

Dan said...

Thanks for the nice review. I just ordered it based on your comments. I'm guessing everyone but the 6-year old will be reading it.