“When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead

Winner of the 2010 Newbery Award, Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me pays tribute to the 1963 Newbery winner, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Like Miranda, the narrator of When You Reach Me, it was one of my favorite books as a girl, and I read it over and over. If you loved L’Engle’s book, you’re likely to enjoy Stead’s.

In 1979 New York City, Miranda is in sixth grade, and discovers pain in friendship when her best friend Sal no longer wants to spend time with her. She befriends another girl, Annemarie, who’s just gotten “dumped” by her best friend, Julia. And she strikes up a tentative friendship with Marcus, who she thought was a bully but now isn’t so sure. Things are further complicated when she starts receiving peculiar notes that contain facts no one should know.

I check the box under my bed, which is where I’ve kept your notes these past few months. There it is, in your tiny handwriting: April 27th Studio TV-15, the words all jerky-looking, like you wrote them on the subway. Your last proof.

I still think about the letter you asked me to write. It nags at me, even though you’re gone and there’s no one to give it to anymore. Sometimes I work on it in my head, trying to map out the story you asked me to tell, about everything that happened this past fall and winter. It’s all still there, like a movie I can watch when I want to. Which is never.

Miranda is surrounded by a nice cast of characters. There’s another new friend, Colin, a smartass, Miranda’s single mom, mom’s boyfriend Richard (or “Mr. Perfect”), Jimmy the deli guy, the crazy guy on the corner, a dentist, Wheelie, and more. Many YA novels have small character lists, or caricatures instead of characters, but Stead manages her cast nicely.

Miranda’s struggles, in friendship and to unravel the mystery of the notes, are engaging and the former is quite believable. I raced through to the end because I didn’t want to wait to see what happened. This is a good read with some depth to it. Recommended.

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