When You Reach Me
Author: Rebecca Stead
Publisher: Yearling (Imprint of Random House), 2009
Miranda, sixth-grader and native New Yorker, knows how to live in the city, especially since her mom has been telling her how to be safe for pretty much her whole life. She deals with the older boys who hang out near her apartment building, the crazy man on the corner who kicks at the street and lies with his head under a mailbox, and she knows to keep her key out at least a block before she gets to her door. But her constant companion, her best friend Sal, starts acting really weird; after he gets punched by one of the kids on the street for no reason, he stops talking to her and walking home with her and basically just ignores her. She's not sure why or what she did, or how to get him back.
This is all made way more complicated and frightening when she starts getting the notes. The notes that tell her pieces of the future. And the notes that tell her she needs to help the note-writer before it's too late and a person close to her dies.
When You Reach Me has stayed with me long after I finished the last page. It's a fast read, but it's also one that I will probably revisit again soon. There is a gentleness to Stead's writing, a mystery just out of reach that only comes together when it should. I did guess at things, but I often found myself second-guessing and turning to pages to see if I was right or not.
And let me tell you, that ending is beautiful.
I also need to tell you all that, if you have read and liked (or loved—better if you love it, as I do) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, you need to read this book. Miranda loves it to the point where she's read it too many times to count and her copy is falling apart. She calls it her book, and I think any reader knows what she means. It's the book that means the most to her, the one she carries with her always (be it figuratively or literally).
Miranda isn't perfect.. She has a mean streak if the mood strikes, if she's jealous of someone. And she doesn't always make the best decisions. But she is all the more real for it, even if we don't want her to do what she chooses to do.
Oh, and the story takes place during 1978-9, giving it a slightly different feel. It's a New York of a different time, but not so different. There is just a dash of science fiction, but it's nothing that takes you out of the real setting or out of Miranda's day-to-day experiences.
I truly loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to those who enjoy books about time travel, friendship, A Wrinkle in Time, and possibly game shows.
Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book from Barnes & Noble.