When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

This remarkable novel holds a fantastic puzzle at its heart.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

I’ve had this book for so long I can’t even remember how I came across it. I’ve shuttled it around from apartment to apartment and finally to this house, where I finally read it.

When You Reach Me won the Newberry Medal in 2009. I think I held off on reading it for so long because it’s labeled Middle-Grade and whenever I had a free moment, I would choose something else. But as I’m trying to catch up on my reading goals, I selected it since it was so thin and looked to be a quick read.

I liked the story that Stead wove. And can I say this is the first time I’ve been utterly taken by surprise by a middle-grade novel? Or perhaps even a YA novel? I had no inkling of where the plot was going until it got there. And yet, the groundwork was laid. I just didn’t recognize it as important.

Reading this novel also makes me want to get down to reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. Sadly, I have never read this novel. I know. Everyone and their brother has read it. But not me. Heard of it plenty, sure. But never read it. I think I will need to take a trip to the library soon and read it.

This is a sweet story that is not to be missed. A powerful and curious tale of childhood and the paths our lives take when we don’t notice.

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