Monday, January 17, 2011

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Title: When You Reach Me
Author: Rebecca Stead
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Language: English
ISBN - 10: 0385737424
ISBN - 13: 978-0385737425
Rating:  5/5

It was my love of puzzles that made me pick this one up, and the blurb itself was intriguing:

"By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that haven’t even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late."
I loved everything about this book! From the amazing cover design that I talked about here, which already piqued my interest on its own, to the title, and of course, to the story it held. It was fresh, snappy and fast paced, something an impatient reader like me loves.

I finished reading this three hours since I started. The author definitely knows how to capture the reader's attention. The story is not too predictable, and if you're like me who loves mysteries, you'll have an idea for an answer to the mystery, yet when the answer is revealed, it bowls you over that you were right, but not in the way you thought you would be. The book is filled with fun twists that everyone can understand, from tweens to the older readers. It just never gets boring.

The story is not very heavy on drama, but the few ones are fraught with emotion, but never becoming too mushy. Even then, it never drags and the reader is treated to lots of welcome surprises. Most times, reading felt like riding in a speedy motorcycle, with all the thrill and exhilarating speed, but without the uncomfortable and bumpy path, without the threat of crashing looming constantly overhead. The description of each scene and the dialogue are economic, to the point, with no digression, hesitation, or affectation. The author definitely knows what she's writing about.

The characters' personalities are well-established, no contradictions but not too dull or stereotypical, with the young characters' outlook innocent, yet clever. The relationships are realistic, there are no impregnable best-friends-forever vows, no I-totally-hate-you stuff, but the loyalty and respect for each person are present. The children act their age, as do the grown-ups. Very realistic, but never unimaginative. There are no minor characters - everyone is an essential part of the book, just as there are no minor details - everything is significant. As the story advances, the characters show growth and maturity in their roles, and every change is welcome, though some are a bit sad, they are nonetheless authentic and practical.

In the story, A Wrinkle in Time by Madelaine L’Engle was Miranda's favorite book. As for me, this book, Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me is now my very own new personal favorite. I tell you, this book will never disappoint. No wonder, it's the winner of the 2010 John Newbery Medal.


Louise said...

I loved this book too. I read it a few months ago, and would love to get the chance to reread it. I wanted to reread it the minute I finished.

Valerie said...

In addition to being a great book, the thing that blew me away about this book is that it is set within a block or two of where I grew up, and the characters are within a year or two of my own age, so it's like a book about my own childhood. There even really was a scary guy a little like the scary guy in the book -- he stood around on street corners and made rooster noises when girls and women walked by. We called him "The Chicken Man."

Nina B. said...

Valerie: Wow, that's amazing! It's almost like your story!

Sandy D. said...

I really need to re-read this and do a review of it. But first I think I'll do "Moon Over Manifest". :-)