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When You Reach Me (Review)

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When You Reach Me
Rebecca Stead, 2009
208 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
April 2010

Here's another young adult novel that makes the leap to over to adult fiction. (See The Book Thief and The Magician's Elephant.) Rebecca Stead has taken a realistic story of school-age friendships, woven it into a mystery, and wrapped it around fantasy. It's a delightful tale for any age.

Precocious young Miranda (are child heroines ever not precocious?) lives with her single mother in Manhattan. Her favorite book, which she reads obsessively is Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. It is L'Engle's subject of time travel that informs this story. Even Miranda's knot-tying hobby echoes the twisting and warping of time itself.

Miranda's mother is invited to appear on a TV quiz show, her best friend is pummeled by a school bully, and a homeless man on the corner makes walking to and from school a scary transaction. In the midst of all this, mysterious notes start appearing in secretive places, suggesting an intimate knowledge of Miranda's life—including certain events before they happen.

By the end, Stead pulls together the multiple plot strands to everyone's surprise and enlighten-ment. It all seems simple enough.

But the story's solution hangs on the possibility of time travel—and that exploration provides a layer of sophistication that's mind-bending and fun. To travel back in time, for example, means you would arrive before you leave. Can you get your head around that one? Well, Miranda does ... finally.

I love this book ... and traveling forward in time, I see lively book club discussions about time and time-travel, parenting and friendship.

See our Reading Guide for When You Reach Me.

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