Review: When You Reach Me

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.–From Goodreads

Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me is the 2010 Newberry Award Winner. The book takes place in a NYC neighborhood in the 70s; is it a story about friendship, which includes both friends lost and friends gained. Stead sprinkles in quite a few Wrinkle in Time references, which will appeal to lovers of L’Engle’s classic series. Though I’m not usually particularly enthusiastic about middle-grade novels, I found this book to be sophisticated enough to appeal to older readers as well, especially those who will enjoy the nostalgia of the literary references, and those who are able to put together some of the many clues to the story’s ending.

Quotable Quote from When You Reach Me

“Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way. But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.”

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