Saturday, 13 February 2010
Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Released: July 14th, 2009
Grade rating: B+
Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever. By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper: I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. 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.
When You Reach Me is an intricate, well-written mystery, with elements of sci-fi, time travel and nostalgia present throughout. It didn't grab me right from the beginning, but if I could find a way to bottle the last twenty pages and make everyone I know read them, I would. It has one of those perfect endings that feels like a light has been switched on in your head, and makes you immediately go back over all the little details that didn't register the first time.
Miranda, along with her family and friends, are exactly the kind of people I love reading about. They're by no means flawless, but they recognise those flaws and try to better themselves. They're nothing out of the ordinary, nothing special, yet they're all witness to an extraordinary series of events taking place right in front of their eyes.
As previously mentioned, the start of the story didn't grab me, and I was a good sixty or seventy pages in before I reached the point where I couldn't bear to put it down. It's a short book as it is, so I expected to be completely gripped quite quickly. Luckily, things got a lot better from then on, and I found myself enthralled by the Laughing Man, the crypic notes and all the talk of time travel.
As per usual, I had my own personal theories about what was going on, and none of them were right. I think I'm going to give up guessing, as it never works, and the authors are always cleverer than me when it comes to their imaginations. Rebecca Stead is no exception, and the end of When You Reach Me was absolutely brilliant. I can't wait to read the whole thing again, and pay more attention as I go along. Everything is relevant, and everything fits. I just have to piece it all together.