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.