When You Reach Me

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.

Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me

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.

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10 responses to “When You Reach Me

  1. It’s a very fine book, and I was lucky enough to somehow pick it up without knowing much of anything about it at all.

    However, having been the right age to read A Wrinkle in Time when it first came out, though actually it was our fourth grade teacher who read it aloud to us, I will say that not much could match that book in my mind. It is a hard challenge that Stead has set herself.

  2. Well, A Wrinkle in Time is my all time favourite too. And I have a copy of this one waiting to be read, having come to me via the wonderful cover illustration by my lovely friend and Wild Boar co-conspirator, Sophie Blackall. As to reviewers who just tell the plot, pah. It’s inexcusably lazy.

  3. I’m so glad you liked this one as it is near and dear to my heart. I first read it in galley, read it aloud to my class, and finally months later was able to review it for the NY Times. By then it had loads of attention and it was wonderful when it won the Newbery. As I wrote in my review, I think it is a pretty thrilling mystery and my students were completely on the edge of their seats trying to figure it out.

    I did work very, very, very hard not to give anything much away while also trying to get at the excitement of the book. When my students wrote about it on their blogs they too worked to do this. But, wow, that Independent reviewer really did blow it.

    As for A WRINKLE IN TIME, it is a lovely book that I too had a special relationship with (and I’ve still all the drawings I did for it), but you truly don’t need to know it for Rebecca’s book.

  4. Pingback: When You Reach Me Reaches the UK « educating alice

  5. Thanks, ladies. We’re all much of an age, I believe, but you are all Americans which makes it so unfair. If I had been, I would have grown up on the Wrinkle, too.

    Meg, I didn’t realise it’s one of Sophie’s covers. I’d been looking at it a lot, thinking how marvellous it is. Read the book at once!

  6. The cover is definitely good too!

  7. As a child I too read ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ and its sequels, but had an odd relationship with them – I found them a bit sentimental. Exciting, yes – and I would re-read them – but in the end, they never quite worked for me. I hasten to add I don’t say this to upset anyone or denigrate the books: just, it’s interesting to check out different reactions.

  8. I’d like to read this one, though!

  9. Oh, Katherine, you are so on my bad list!

    I’m kidding. I think there may turn out to be a divide on who likes which one better. But they are both good.

    (But how can you not like Charles Wallace?)

  10. Oh dear! I know… I ought to like him! and I ought to like Meg! (Murray, I mean. Not Rosoff. I DO like Meg Rosoff!)
    But there it is, it just…didn’t quite click. And I always felt it should, or almost had – hence the re-readings.
    Never got there, though.

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