Book Review: When You Reach Me

WHEN YOU REACH MEIn my daughter’s sixth grade class for the recent semester, the kids had to read one of four selections that their teacher presented. My daughter did the first read and turned in the assignment, then decided to read the other three before the semester was through. She has always said this teacher had a great book collection based on her great preferences, and there was only this semester left to enjoy it.

When I picked up When You Reach Me, I didn’t remember what, if anything, my daughter had shared about it. I knew I was at Barnes & Noble and I knew that When You Reach Me was on my to-be-read and I knew that I intended to grab a book on my way to somewhere. The title and the cover had never caught my attention before, but I did notice two things at this point: first, the book was on a table in the center of the store and second, it had a Newbery Medal on the front. Not that I fall for all center-table or award-winning books, but things were boding well for a book that seemed like background noise to me up until now.

I liked it right away. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t quite this. Airy and conversational, neat and mysterious, this book hooked me from the first page and it kept me going all the way through. I don’t want to say too much about it; some of my enjoyment came from discovering the plot and even genre as I read. So I would recommend that you don’t do too much research (or even read the back of the cover) before you read it. That way, it’ll keep you guessing.

On the other hand, perhaps the title and cover could be a bit more attention-grabbing? Not that they’re not cute… it’s just that where I kept seeing Hoot, I kept forgetting When You Reach Me.

WHEN YOU REACH ME 2Anyhoo, I really did like this book a lot. It was a fairly short read, and there were moments when I wasn’t sure how well I actually knew the main character, but overall I just wanted to keep reading. And when it all came together, it really all came together. The main character is not perfect, and neither is anyone around her, but you root for these folks, and the main character has a way of taking her time but eventually uncovering the light in everyone around her. (Except the real bad guy—she just walks away from him.) And you don’t forget this story. It lingers.

I love the nostalgia of the 1970s. I love watching people really live in New York City. And I love all the quirk—from “The $20,000 Pyramid” to striped tights to banks full of two-dollar bills.

My daughter did not like that it didn’t fit neatly into a genre box. According to publishers, that might bother some people, but it certainly doesn’t bother me. In fact, I enjoy (and write) what I call genre-benders.

Obviously, I would recommend it. Middle grades would be the perfect time to read it. And despite its introducing (innocent and brief) kissing, it would make a great school read.

_______________

I read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. It was published in 2009 by Yearling.

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