I don’t remember where I read about Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me–I’m pretty sure it was reviewed on someone’s blog, but I don’t remember who. Which is too bad, because I’d like to thank whoever it was that turned me on to this novel. Middle grade fiction isn’t often my thing. Not because I think it is inferior or less important than YA or adult fiction. It’s just that I’m too fond of mooning and sexual tension. But this! This book was beautiful.
Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.
By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:
I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.
I can’t even explain how this story affected me. The first person POV narrative resonates with layers of emotion throughout the entire book. It’s beautiful, sad, and sweet, and it’s one of those books that you finish and feel sort of changed, somehow, though you’d never be able to say how. The narrator herself not only learns a lot about relationships and life, but also comes out on the other side of the story’s events a better person–kinder, more self-aware, more emotionally balanced.
I also LOVED the way Miranda re-reads A Wrinkle in Time over and over; when I was a kid, when I loved a book I did the same thing. Actually I STILL do the same thing, although I usually reserve re-reading for bed time when I can’t shut my brain off. There were so many details like this in the book that made the story and characters feel truly real. And most of these details are also essential to the story, dropped like little clues that you don’t even notice until you start to see the mystery of the notes unfolding. Beautifully crafted, beautifully told, just . . . wonderful.
AND! It won the 2010 Newbury Medal. It totally deserves it.