13 March 2010

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is a fascinating novel with a number of story lines. While I enjoyed the book (and stayed up until 12:30 in the morning to finish it, which speaks volumes), I wonder if the seconday story lines will be understood by young readers who might not have previous knowledge to support full interest. Certainly it appealed to the Newbery panel!
The novel takes place in 1979 and is narrated by twelve year old Miranda, who lives with her mother. Miranda experiences the pains of growing up while a mystery surrounds her. Miranda's mother is excited about being on the $20,000 Pyramid, a television game show which was popular in the 1970s. Along with her mother's boyfriend, the family helps the mother practice for the show. This story line might be an unknown for young people today.

Another story line, which is at the heart of the mystery, focuses on Madeline L'Engel's book A Wrinkle in Time and the idea of time travel. Marcus, who becomes a friend to Miranda, has theories on time and space. If one were unfamiliar with L'Engel's book, perhaps this story line might also have some gaps. Of course the simple answer to this problem is to read L'Engel's classic book and start over.

I liked this book. I didn't love it. The writing and tone were good and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mysterious notes. Overall, When You Reach Me should hold broad appeal for the age range Grade 5-8, which is where we have placed the book in our collection at the library.

TITLE: When You Reach Me
AUTHOR: Rebecca Stead
PAGES: 197
TYPE: fiction
RECOMMEND: A slightly off-kilter book for middle school students - should spark good discussion

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