Michelle Isenhoff

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, 2009, Book Review

Miranda and Sal are best friends, until the day they are not. Until the day Sal takes a punch to the stomach. Until the first day of the story she must write in a letter…to someone. Suddenly, Sal no longer wants to walk to school with Miranda, and the first of four strange notes appear. Someone is writing to her. Someone with a keen knowledge of her life. Someone who knows things before they happen. Someone who wants her to record all of it.
Wow. Let me say that again. Wow.

Every detail, every character, every event in this book is crucial to the outcome of the story. We’re given a homeless man, a bully who isn’t really a bully, and a few classmates that Miranda befriends when Sal is off doing his own thing, all separate threads. But just underneath the surface they are pulling tight, borrowing shades and colors from A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, and weaving into something beautifully new. (You need not read Wrinkle beforehand, but I’d recommend it–on its own strength as well as for background.)

Content is pretty harmless. Miranda’s mom does swipe a lot of inconsequential items from work, but she also refuse to give her boyfriend a key to her place. The value of friendship is a major theme, even to the point of sacrifice. Unfortunately, the book contains two mild profanities and a few OMGs. We’re also given a page of evolution as a broad history for mankind. Therefore it doesn’t earn a Squeaky Award. But the story is engaging, intricate and beautifully done. Miranda is a character I could cheer for. She’s in a tough place. She’s poor, from a single-parent home, and friendless. But she’s honorable, and she comes out better than when she went in.

Sweet adventure factor: I would call When You Reach Me more of a journey to maturity than a true adventure, though there is a strong element of science fiction in it. I was able to foresee the ending, the tying of threads, about halfway through the book, but the getting there is fresh and suspenseful and clever. It’s not sticky sweet. It’s not really even feel-good at the end. But the whole book is right. In fact, it’s just the kind of book I like best. It didn’t win the 2010 Newbery for nothing.

I must warn you, I had a strong hankering for a sub sandwich—preferably one from Jimmy’s–or a piece of pizza as I read this one. Grab one with a soda then sink in for a few very good hours in 1978-9 New York City.
Roughly a fifth grade reading level.

Here’s a universal vendor link.

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, 2009, Book Review

25 thoughts on “When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, 2009, Book Review

  1. I keep meaning to read this book! I think I will take it with me on vacation this Christmas.

  2. I read this about a year ago- Still my favorite book! I love all the twists, it keeps you guessing. 🙂

  3. This is one of my favorite books among all the ones I’ve reviewed so far. So well written and intriguing. Your review makes me want to read it again! This is the kind of book you have to read twice to really catch and appreciate all the details. Nice blog, by the way. I’m adding it to the list on my blog.

  4. Well, YAY! that’s me! Be emailing you soon. THANK YOU!
    About When You Reach Me…love it. I read it myself for the first time last year and will reread it aloud with my daughter soon.

  5. This book’s been on my TBR list for quite a while as well. I just read Breadcrumbs, which was also a beautiful and carefully constructed read, and When You Reach Me sounds like another masterpiece to explore.

      1. Michelle- I just saw your comment about Breadcrumbs. We reviewed it a month or two ago on our blog and it is a must read. I hope you get to read it soon! 🙂

  6. I have not read When You Reach Me- but it is on my list of books to read. I enjoyed your review and your honest thoughts. I am very curious about this one and look forward to reading it.

  7. What a title for a book. Very catchy. Haven’t read “Wrinkle in Time,” so probably should before tackling this one. It sounds like teens would find this fun and engaging. Don’t know where you find all these MG gems.

    1. Oh, Patricia, you MUST read Wrinkle. Madeline L’Engle is marvelous! A modern classic. But you don’t have to read it to find this one.
      I find a lot of my reads off other blogs, off library lists, award lists, and various favorites lists. And sometimes I just browse and pick up what catches my eye.

  8. Awesome review. Read this one a while back, loved it and now after reading your review…need to read it all over again, lol. Like you say above, so many books so little time!

Comments are closed.

Scroll to top