Wednesday, 27 April 2011

review: When You Reach Me

by Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books, 2009
historical middle-grade
Newbery Medal, 2010

It's 1978, and Miranda's mother has won the chance to play on The $20,000 Pyramid, a TV show contest which could get them the money they need. More pressing things start to weigh in on Miranda than helping her mother practise, though. BFF Sal gets punched one day and stops talking to her, and mysterious, practically omniscient notes appear in unlikely places saying that someone is coming to save her friend, and themselves. Miranda must find out who and where the notes are coming from, before it's too late.
The cover:

At first, I thought When You Reach Me was YA, so the cover turned me off. But it appeals best to middle-graders, which is the intended age group, so I suppose it's okay. Still, the drawn feel doesn't really seem to portray any specific part of the story, except perhaps the NYC skyline.

The book:

All the hype made me very wary in reading this book. Now, I can see why it's won a Newbery, and why many MG authors have sung its praises: it's plain clever. Hints and foreshadowing are everywhere; that the second time you read it through, you'll marvel at all that you missed... which may be a derogatory feeling for some.

The way time-travelling integrates itself seamlessly is remarkable. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time is an excellent clue into this aspect, and Miranda's love of this book also helps to develop her character. Overall, however, I didn't feel any real connection to Miranda. Because the book was so fast-paced, also, it seemed that she wasn't the focus of the story.

It's the piecing of the puzzle together at the end that will really delight readers, and a historical middle-grade is a rare entity indeed. The length of When You Reach Me also makes it suitable for reluctant readers.

Rating: 3 out of 5