Sunday, January 15, 2012

When You Reach Me

I have one word for Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me.  UNEXPECTED.  I suppose in looking back all the clues were in place, but I became too interested in the story to really focus on the clues.  You see, the story is so sweet and interesting, I got distracted.  This is not saying much for my detective skills, but it was certainly a fun read.

When You Reach Me was the Newbery Award Winner (list of winners) in 2010 (watch Rebecca discuss the book and the award here), which  obviously makes it a quality read.  The book tells the story of Miranda, a sixth grader whose life takes an interesting turn after receiving a series of mysterious notes.  Miranda lives in New York with her mother, who is training for her appearance on the game show The $20,000 Pyramid.  Miranda's relationship with her mother is really more like equals instead of parent-child.  Sometimes Miranda likes this, and sometimes she just wants to be coddled. Who wouldn't?

Miranda's long-time best friend Sal is her mother's best friend's son.  They've always been together.  It's always been just the two of them.  Until one day, Sal is attacked on their way home from school.  After Sal is punched by Marcus, another student at their school, he turns away from Miranda.  When this happens, Miranda is forced to make other friends.

Luckily for Miranda, Annmarie is on the outs with her long-time best friend as well.  As a result of this perfect timing, Miranda is able to forge a new friendship with Annmarie and another classmate, Colin.  They begin having fun together after Colin gets them jobs at the local sandwich shop during their lunch time.

As if the friendship drama were not enough, Miranda has also been receiving strange messages.  These notes are directed to her, but are so weird she doesn't really know what they mean.  They say things like: "I am coming to save your friend's life. The journey is long.  You won't recognize me when I reach you." Strange.

Miranda's favorite book and a clue!
And, there's the laughing man.  Yep, the laughing man.  He hangs out under the mailbox just outside Miranda's apartment building.  He says asks strange questions, lies under the mailbox, and you guessed it, laughs.  He presents an interesting challenge when coming and going from the apartment.

This book has a bit of everything.  There's the usual middle school drama, the coming of age theme, the friendship struggles, mystery, and dare I say it, a touch of time travel.  Unexpected, right?  This was a great one.  So, don't wait until it's too late, and you need to figure out how to travel back in time to read this one as your current self.  Just read it now!

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