Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: When You Reach Me

Working in a bookstore, with the help desk right in the middle of the kids books, I get asked in-depth questions about things I've never (or may never) read. Especially when it comes to middle grade books (the level before YA, which I am much more familiar with). And especially especially when it comes to the Massachusetts Children's Book Award picks, which we have in one convenient display. I've decided to start reading more of them, just so I can not sound like a fool when I'm trying to tell parents or kids about them.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead was my first pick from this year's list (and I listened to the audiobook on my commute to and from work). The description, about a girl, Miranda, living in New York City in 1978 who finds a mysterious note - "I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own. I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter." - was intriguing, and I thought it would be a simple mystery about who wrote the note. But this book is so, so much more.

At first, the story just seems like a tale of a girl living in New York, dealing with the homeless man who lives on the corner, bullies, a distant best friend, and her mother's desire to be on a game show. Miranda is smart and fairly savvy, and even if this story didn't get into the mysterious note, it would be an interesting picture of a child's life in New York in the 70s. But when she finds this note, the real mystery kicks in, and the breadcrumbs left throughout the book lead to a very satisfying conclusion.

Miranda's favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time (one of my favorites when I was her age), and Rebecca Stead ties that book into her narrative extremely well with discussions on time travel and metaphysics that you would think would fly over the heads of kids, but instead, reach right out to them. This is actually a great companion to A Wrinkle in Time, and since listening to this audiobook, I've been selling this to kids who enjoying A Wrinkle in Time and vice versa.

4/5 stars

Buy When You Reach Me on Amazon
Buy When You Reach Me from a local store through Indie Bound

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