When You Reach Me

When I was a child, A Wrinkle in Time was one of my favorite books. But here’s my problem–I rarely remember a book. I just remember–quite clearly–how I felt while I was reading it. And I remember feeling wonderfully enthralled while reading Madeline L’Engle’s tale of time-travel. Now I’ve just read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, a book that is getting lots of “buzz”–Newbery is often mentioned in conjunction with the title–and I enjoyed it so much, I want to go back and re-read A Wrinkle in Time. Stead acknowledges the “astonishing imagination and hard work of Madeleine L’Engle” and When You Reach Me often refers to A Wrinkle in Time, so I think it would be fun to read one right after the other. I might suggest reading L’Engle’s book first, though.

When You Reach Me is chock full. It’s chock full of adventure, of plot and sub-plot, of characters, of themes. The narrative device is unusual and there is a mixing of genres. Best of all, there is mystery and the story is written with enough suspense to keep the reader turning the page. So, what about my three criteria when choosing a book for my Mother/Daughter Book Groups?

1) The Story: This is one of those books that I think the moms will enjoy reading as much as the daughters, especially if they have already read A Wrinkle in Time. Miranda, the protagonist, is a likable sixth-grade girl living in 1979 New York City with her single mom. Miranda’s mom has just been selected to be a contestant on the TV show The $20.000 Pyramid. This would be exciting enough–they could really use that money to buy all sorts of things they need–but Miranda also is confronted with the fact that someone–she doesn’t know who–has predicted that her mom would be chosen. And this isn’t the only prediction that the stranger has made, and that has come true. In mysterious and secret notes, this stranger has told Miranda about things that will happen before they do, and he’s been right every time. Now he says it’s a matter of life and death that she help him–and keep it secret from her mom and her best friends. But who is he and how can she help?

This book has a lot going on, but the author ties it all together in the end, and I think it works. The girls will have to be thinking while they are reading, which I always see as a good thing, but they may not even realize how hard they are thinking because the story is so gripping!

2) Questions: This book poses a lot of questions, both the little and the big kind. I hadn’t thought much about time travel until I read this book, but now I find it fascinating to ponder!

3)Life Lessons: My favorite theme of the book is connections, the thread that connects every action to every other action and every person to every other person. And every time to every other time. It’s very thought-provoking, and worth reminding ourselves of. Remember E.M. Forster?