Monday, April 5, 2010

When you reach me by Rebecca Stead

I think this book When you reach me needs a large sticker in the middle of the front cover as a warning. Before reading this book make sure you have already read A Wrinkle in time by Madeline L’Engle.

People always talk with great fondness when they mention the book A Wrinkle in time and it is one of those books I was quite sure I had read as a young child but now I am not so sure. When you reach me by Rebecca Stead (A Wrinkle in time is her all time favourite book or so it says in the acknowledgements) is interlaced with a recount of the plot from A Wrinkle in time so now I find I need to read that book in order to make some sense of this new one. All of that to one side this is certainly a book that I just gobbled up in one reading, I read the first 75 pages without drawing breath and it is a book that I know will linger with me for a long time. I also find, after reading it, that it is the 2010 winner of the Newberry Medal!

Miranda lives in New York, a city filled with decaying apartment buildings, dangerous gangs of youth and seriously ill homeless people who inhabit the streets.

Miranda begins to find small cryptic notes in unexpected places – inside an unread library book about squirrels, deep inside a huge bag of bread rolls which Miranda counts each day as part of her job at Jimmy’s and in her winter coat pocket. As the months move on Miranda learns some hard lessons about friendship and about herself. Sal, her best friend from early childhood appears to shun her but she finds a new friends in Colin and Annemarie. All these kids along with Julia - her arch enemy - have special things to show Miranda about life.

The key to this story is the idea that time is just a construct. “Time isn’t a line stretching out in front of us, going in one direction. It’s – well, time is just a construct actually.” These wise words come from Marcus a boy with the most serious life lessons to share.

On a happy note I really enjoyed the characters in this book especially the school secretary fondly called Wheelie. Also Rebecca Stead gives you a great sense of place with her descriptions of Miranda’s apartment with the peeling paint, water stains and cigarette burns on the lounge. To understand more about this book read the review in School Library Journal by Elizabeth Bird. On only one point I disagree - I love the cover although ours is slightly different from the American one I have put here in my blog. If you look closely all the clues from the story are there – the key, the coat, letter box and shoe.

This book reminded me of Looking for X by Deborah Ellis. I highly recommend When you reach me for thoughtful readers who like realism, or Science Fiction or perhaps just readers who are looking for a book that makes you think about life and more.

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