Monday, October 31, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: When You Reach Me

by: Rebecca Stead
Published December 28th 2010 by Yearling (first published July 14th 2009)

Winner of the 2010 John Newbery Medal

I know many of you already read this book, and I can't believe I waited as long as I did to be added to the list. I wanted to share my thoughts, the first of which when I finished the book, was WOW! It's one of those books that when you finish you want to read again, now that you know the ending. Before we get to my thoughts, the publisher's description:

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, like the local grocery store, 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:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

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.

This remarkable novel takes place in the real world but holds a fantastic puzzle at its heart. When You Reach Me is an original, and a brilliant and profound delight.

Throughout the book, Miranda enters into new relationships with various people, most importantly Annemarie, Marcus and Julia. These three new friends each teach her new things about herself: how to be a real friend; don't judge people on your first impression; and yes, people can surprise you.

I also appreciated Miranda's relationship with Richard, her mom's boyfriend. So many books portray the boyfriend/step-father in an unflattering way with lots of conflict. Here that is one relationship that appears to be safe and secure.

One fun element of the story that gives a lighter tone is the storyline of Miranda's mom's quest to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid. The practicing at home with Miranda and Richard make for some fun family moments.

If you haven't read WHEN YOU REACH ME, definitely read it soon. And if you have already read it, what did you think?