There is only one thing nicer than a beautifully good read, and that’s when it’s unexpected. I’m not saying I thought Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me wasn’t going to be good; I’m saying I hadn’t heard of it or of her until I was offered this Newbery medal winning novel to read. And cynic that I am I thought it’d be good, but, you know, ‘just’ good.
But it’s absolutely amazing, and I really loved it.
I haven’t – yet – read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, but I must. Soon. Adults who have, will realise it has a bearing on Rebecca’s book, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention it here seeing as it gets mentioned early on in the story. And for the child who knows the book, it will probably be doubly welcome to read another on a similar topic.
Setting any such parallels aside, it’s all about friendship and the many ways in which you can be a friend. It is so very American and that is attractive, especially as it’s set in the late 1970s, with the freedom to roam children no longer have. I’m guessing it also means there is more of a mix of rich and poor, and it’s fascinating to see how close they live, and that the children go to the same school.
Miranda lives with her single mother, who wanted to be a lawyer but had to give all that up when she had Miranda. Now her ambition is to go on television and win money. This sounds pretty shallow, but it isn’t, which is just one more piece of proof of the quality of Rebecca’s writing.
The boy who Miranda has always been best friends with starts to shun her company, and she has to learn to talk to other children. And that’s what this is all about. The social mix makes it more important still.
And then there is the ‘Wrinkle’ mystery, which Miranda needs to solve. Another positive aspect for me is the aspie-ness of one of the characters, which is done in an unusually nice way and not at all OTT.
Something that would have made my reading experience much better however, would have been to avoid the reviews the publishers sent me. Most were of the normal type and I sort of glanced at them with some care, in case someone had been idiotic enough to give too much away. (I know, I know, I shouldn’t have been idiotic enough to read them in the first place.) Susan Elkin in the Independent on Sunday spent all of nine lines on her review, two of which went on the title, author’s name and publisher and price. So in the seven lines left to her she mentioned nothing but the whole ‘the butler did it’ thing. So I read the story knowing full well that the butler was the one. And it would have been nice to work that out slowly on my own.