When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead

Editor’s Note: I listened to this amazing book while tearing down wall paper and washing dishes.  Again, I’m not fact-checking as it was an audio book, so forgive my mistakes. I also tried to avoid spoilers this time.  This book truly is awesome, and it won the Newbery for 2010. High praise indeed.

Synopsis: Miranda and her buddy Sal are walking home from school when a kid (Marcus) comes up and just punches Sal. From then on, things are really weird between the two friends, and Sal says he wants to take a break from her. Ouch, but, what can you do? She suspects that this is when everything started going wrong.

Miranda forgets her key one day and hangs out at the local store, where she tells the owner about the book she’s reading (A Wrinkle in Time). Apparently it’s the only book she reads, because nothing else appeals to her. Her mom decides to put the spare key in the old fire hose in the hallway. One day, Miranda comes home and the door is unlocked.  She has a note saying he’s here to save her friend’s life, and maybe his own. The letter only asks of her that she writes what happens. She’s pretty creeped out about this and the locks are changed.

In the meantime, she’s meeting some interesting friends. Annemarie is a girl whose “snotty” BFF Julia decided to “punish” by no longer eating lunch with her. Convenient, since Miranda could use a friend. She also starts hanging out with Colin, who has a pretty loud and funny personality. He ends up getting them a 40-minute-a day job at the local deli. Weird. Miranda also meets Marcus while she’s being a runner for the school dentist. Marcus discusses the deep implications of time traveling, saying Mrs. Whosit lied in Wrinkle when she said they’d be back five minutes before they left, because they’d run into each other. (Think Hermione w/ Time Turner, having to avoid the other one.)

Miranda becomes nicer, even though she didn’t quite realize she was mean before– she was just indifferent. She becomes friends with Julia, who she’s had issues with since second grade, and becomes bathroom buddies with the girl who’s too shy to ask to go. Colin and Miranda have a little crush.  She even offers the homeless guy (“the Laughing Man”) near her stoop her sandwich.  Still, she and Sal are on the outs.

The letters keep coming, but Miranda has no idea what they mean. “When you reach me, you won’t be able to recognize me.”   Who is going to need saving? Who needs her help doing the saving? Why HER?

Bookworm’s Commentary:

  • Believe it or not, I did NOT include any spoilers. I loved this book, but as I’ve said before, I can usually catch on to mysteries and red herrings pretty quickly. It didn’t take me long at all (especially listening to it, gives your mind a lot of time to wonder) but it’s still great to see how it pulls together.
  • Miranda says she was named after a criminal. Her mom is a criminal defense lawyer’s assistant (I think?) so she’s all, “No, you’re named after a basic right.”  “Which was named after a criminal, Ma.” I thought that was pretty funny.
  • I also thought it was funny that Mom’s boyfriend Richard of 2 years doesn’t get a key until near the end of the book, but she’s putting spares out.
  • BTW, let’s talk about how awesome Richard is? So, he’s almost perfect, other than his right leg is slightly shorter than the other. He gives Miranda a signed first edition of Wrinkle in Time. As someone who was won over by her stepdad when he got the Babysitter Club mini-series on video, he’s golden, Mom! He also encourages Mom to go to law school, something she’s always put on the back burner.
  • Miranda’s Mom goes on the $20,000 Pyramid. She practices a lot and does really well in her practicing.
  • Mom also steals office supplies from work. “You can tell how happy she is with work by watching how many office supplies she swipes.” (More supplies=not happy.)
  • Miranda’s dislike of Julia begins in second or third grade when she says the construction paper she was given  self-portrait didn’t match her skin tone or her eyes, (her eyes were 60% caco brown, and I can’t remember the  word used to describe her skin).  Pretty funny. Miranda had neon pink, so she didn’t understand why she was so picky.
  • Having previous knowledge of Wrinkle in Time will help, but is not absolutely necessary. Themes seen in Wrinkle are also seen in When you reach me. Primarily, time travel.

Class Stuff:
Grades: 5-8.
Although I’d guess that if the student is interested in time travel stuff or Wrinkle in Time (I forgot when I read that the first time), go for this.
Grade: A+ . While I could see things coming, it was amazing. Like I said before, it won the Newbery– not a silver honor, it’s the #1 honcho. Definitely worth reading or 4 hours of listening.



Filed under Fantasy, Middle school (6-8), Mystery (no spoilers intended), Realistic

2 responses to “When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead

  1. Haven’t heard of it but it sounds like a good read.

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