When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is a perfect portrayal of how extraordinary things can happen in what seemed to be an ordinary life. Set in 1970s New York, the reader follows the engrossing voice of 12-year-old Miranda Sinclair, a curious, imaginative tween, who makes you travel straight into the heart of her life, with a complete tour of the Upper West Side, making you feel part of it.
In the beginning, Miranda’s life seems pretty normal until one day, when herself and her best friend Sal were walking back from school, a boy simply walks up and punches Sal in the face. At first, it seems like a simple case of bullying, but ever since the incident, weird things start happening. Miranda’s house key goes missing, and then she gets a mysterious note that says:
I ask for two favors. First, you must write me a letter.’
The notes keep on coming, and with increasing weirdness. For example, when she shows the first note to her mother, the second note tells her not to show them to anyone, which meant that she was alone. With further investigation and occurrences that seem more than a simple coincidence with the cryptic notes, the plot slowly starts unravelling, and Miranda, along with us, discovers an eerily fictitious yet somehow realistic mystery involving her interactions with Marcus, the boy who punched Sal, the laughing man-a homeless person living under a mailbox on Miranda’s street, the book A Wrinkle in Time, and a lot more cleverly added details that make you want to scour this book for clues.
This book amazes me with its perfect balance between fiction and reality, as it contains all the perfect elements of a typical middle grade novel; friendships, rivalry, even a bit of romance, but it also contains a je-ne-seis-quoi of sorts, with its air of mystique and suspense that just urges you to turn the page over and find out what happens next.
Another fascinating thing about this book is its genre. Even though it is labelled as science- fiction, or mystery, I think this phrase from the novel sums it all up perfectly, and that this book explores the depths of ‘life, death and the beauty of it all.’
To say this book is well-written is an understatement, and its coming-of-age story will definitely make you enjoy the book, and I am sure this it will linger in your mind long after you have finished it.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Yearling Books, 2010. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!