Review of “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead (Middle Grade and Up)

This book, which won the 2009 John Newbery Medal for outstanding children’s literature, received many other accolades as well.

The story is set in Manhattan in 1979, where the 12-year-old sixth-grader Miranda lives with her single mom. Miranda narrates this tale that is told in the form of a letter to a mysterious correspondent of hers. This correspondent leaves Miranda cryptic notes and appears to know what’s going to happen in the future. Miranda dabbles in the future herself, by reading over and over her favorite book, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (ironically, the 1963 Newbery Medal winner).

Miranda never knew her dad, but it doesn’t seem to matter: she is very close to her mom’s boyfriend of two years, Richard. She and Richard spend long hours prepping her mom for an upcoming stint on The $20,000 Pyramid. One of the notes Miranda found predicted that her mom would be chosen as a contestant, and also indicated that her correspondent was “coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.”

Miranda explains to the person intended to read her letter that her best friend Sal doesn’t speak to her anymore after getting punched in her presence by another sixth grader, Marcus Heilbroner. She doesn’t understand the dynamics, but opts to make friends instead with Annemarie, who is temporarily on the outs with her best friend Julia. She describes all of this in her letter at the direction of her correspondent, who wants all the details, as much as she can remember.

What could it possibly mean?

Discussion and Evaluation: Miranda is a very appealing character, and I also thought the depictions of other twelve-year-olds in her class were very well done. Her mother too, seemed exactly like a single mom of a young girl would be.

Nevertheless, I only “liked” this book rather than “loved” it. I confess that I never read A Wrinkle in Time, and that might have had something to do with it, for the stories seemed to be quite intertwined. And somewhat bizarrely, I thought this would make a way better movie than a book. I don’t often have that reaction to Middle Grade stories! Finally, the story just didn’t have much of an emotional impact on me.

But, as indicated above, it won a lot of prizes, and has lots of fans among readers.

Rating: 3.7/5

Published by Wendy Lamb Books, 2009

Some Notable Awards:

Newbery Medal (2010)
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2011)
IRA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Award for Young Adult–Fiction (2010)
Indies Choice Book Award for Middle Reader (2010)
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry (2010)
Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (2012)

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15 Responses to Review of “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead (Middle Grade and Up)

  1. JoAnn says:

    That’s a lot of awards! I’m curious about this one…

  2. ds says:

    Interesting. Will have to check this out (literally from the library); if it’s that good more of our kids should be reading it/steered toward it. Now I know what to read this weekend. Thanks!

  3. Ti says:

    An award for so many awards. You’re not kidding! Wow. I had no idea this book garnered such praise. It would be interesting to read. I’d like to see how those 12-year-olds are portrayed. I can tell you from having one that the 12 of today is more like the 18 of yesterday.

  4. Julie P. says:

    I really enjoyed this one, but I do see your points. I thought it was such an original premise though. Please make sure you link to my Kid Konnection post on Saturday!

  5. Alyce says:

    I absolutely loved this book and was one of those gushy people. 🙂 It’s one of my top reads of the year so far.

  6. bermudaonion says:

    I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time, but it’s been so long ago I don’t remember much about it, so maybe this isn’t the book for me.

  7. Sandy says:

    I did read A Wrinkle in Time and didn’t like it much. I know, I’m weird. This book has been floating around in my head for awhile after hearing all the glowing reviews. I considered it for an audio with my kids. Now I’m not so sure. I know they haven’t read AWIT, so they may get bored or lost, which is never good.

  8. that is a LOT of awards…not that I really take awards too seriously I am sorry to say. I sometimes thing that books that win an award tend to attract more awards..

  9. Jenny says:

    Mercy, look at all those prizes. I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was a kid (& loved it), so maybe this would be better for me. The descriptions of it keep making me think of Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons, though in fact the stories are probably nothing alike. But Walk Two Moons is full of family stuff, and a person leaving strange anonymous notes.

  10. Margot says:

    I liked Wrinkle In Time and am, in fact, carrying a copy with me. I think it would be fun to reread that and then read this one. I think my about-to-be-sixth-grade-granddaughter would like this one too.

  11. Jenners says:

    Wow .. that is a lot of awards.

    I do want to read this after Alyce’s review of it. I’ll probably get a copy at the library. And I loved A Wrinkle In Time back in the day, but I haven’t read it in years so I wonder if I’ll be missing stuff too.

    Can’t wait to hear about your mystery book!

  12. Amanda says:

    I admit I started trying to read this and didn’t get very far, but then again I don’t always read a lot of children’s lit. My kids on the other hand, really like it, so maybe I’ll give it a try again one day when kids lit sounds good.

  13. I have heard such great things about this book and I am a HUGE fan of Madeleine D’Engle. Thanks for your thorough review of the book. Makes me want to read it more!

  14. Staci says:

    I too have read many great reviews of this one and also when a book wins the Newbery it usually catapults it into a higher realm. There have been some award books that I’ve read and often wondered how they garnered so much praise. But, I have to read this one because I read all of the Newbery books. I’ll try to remember to share my thoughts with you whenever I get this accomplished! 😀

  15. charley says:

    I only liked this one, too. Like you, I didn’t make much of an emotional connection. I enjoyed the book while it lasted, but once it was over, I was ready to move on.

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