Every few years, I read a book that really has an impact on me, and this one did, in a very profound way. I have a feeling that Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me is going to stay with me for a very long time. Its intended audience is ages 8-12, but I think even teens will love this book. I’m not sure 8-year-olds will be able to comprehend everything in it, but I AM sure it will give them plenty to think about and possibly figure out on their own…not a bad gift to give your 8-year-old!
The story takes place during the late 1970s in New York City. This is a well-plotted story that weaves so many seemingly random threads into the most detailed tapestry… but I don’t want to give anything away. You need to read this book for yourself!
Content Advisory: The only thing I found even mildly objectionable was that the main character’s mother “swipes” things from work.
From the author’s website:
Four mysterious notes 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, and they know who 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 ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. 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.
When You Reach Me won the Newbery Medal in 2010. The New York Times said it was “smart and mesmerizing.” The Washington Post said it was “incandescent.” The Philadelphia Inquirer said it was “lovely and almost impossibly clever.” The Wall Street Journal said, “Readers … are likely to find themselves chewing over the details of this superb and intricate tale long afterward.”
I say: Run — don’t walk, RUN — to your local library to check out this book, or, better yet, buy a copy of this one for yourself because it’s a keeper. You may want to get another copy to give a friend. You’re going to want to talk with someone about it after you read it. And re-read it. And maybe even re-re-read it. Yes, it is that good! Because of this book, Rebecca Stead’s name will always be on my list of favorite authors.