When You Reach Me (2009)
By Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books (Random House imprint)
Age: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Miranda, a sixth-grader in 1979 Manhattan, receives a series of cryptic notes that implore her to write a letter, explaining, “I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.” The mystery continues as the author, Rebecca Stead, develops her story around Miranda’s neighborhood.
Miranda’s favorite book is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which is referenced throughout. We discover that it is no coincidence as the story unfolds. Though we don’t have to be familiar with A Wrinkle in Time before reading When You Reach Me, it is a nice first allusion and plot parallel for young readers.
The time travel theme and a multi-storyline narrative are entertaining and challenging (in a good way) for middle-school students, while the characters are masterfully developed. Miranda’s mother is delightful and real; their relationship, and her interactions (along with that of her Mother’s boyfriend Richard) are positive, respectful, and caring – a refreshing break from the many children’s books with evil, hated, or dead parents.
This book will appeal to boys and girls – and not just the science fiction-seeking reader, as it explores relationships and light conflicts of all kinds throughout the book. There are dark-ish moments, but they never overtake the story. In the end, the mystery is clearly explained and storylines are resolved nicely in this outstanding novel. A must-add for your library collection.
School Library Journal Guidelines and Application for Reviewers. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/about-us/guidelines-and-application-for-reviewers/