Late to the party: WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead

What kept me from reading Rebecca Stead’s WHEN YOU REACH ME was the idea that it was a “puzzle” book. I’m all for mysteries, but for some reason the idea of a MG book with a puzzle seemed a little gimmicky.

That was nuts.

I’m so mad I waited to read this novel. It came out in 2009! I’ve missed out on four whole years of living with this story. Furious.

when-you-reach-me

WYRM has the most sincere, full voice I think I’ve ever read in a book. Not just a Middle Grade book – a book. The main character, Miranda, is pitch perfect eleven. She struggles with and against her friends, her neighborhood, and herself. There’s magic in the pages, but it is sneaky magic that toes the line between imagination, and the real possibility of no-kidding wizardry.

Yes, it’s clever and there’s an large aspect of intrigue.  But what that really moved me – made me stop, flip back and re-read- was the way that the main character, Miranda, experienced her own meanness.

You love Miranda. She is epically relatable, but she’s also thirteen. She is not a bully by any means, but meanness lives in sixth grade like the vague smell of old sandwiches in a coatroom. Everyone experiences it at least a little, on one end or the other. Or both.

There’s this girl named Alice and she always has to pee. She’s too shy to ask to go to the bathroom so it always becomes an emergency situation. She’s introduced in the beginning and her character quirk is fun and funny – just another part of the world Miranda experiences. But at one point, during a school band concert, it dawns on our main character that she can be Alice’s bathroom buddy. She can be nice. Simple, and world-changing .

“Sometimes you never feel meaner than the moment you stop being mean. It’s like how turning on a light makes you realize how dark the room had gotten. And the way you usually act, the things you would have normally done, are like these ghosts that everyone can see but pretends not to.”
Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me

 

I mean….right? Right? Yikes.

I love this book. I love this book. I love this book.

I almost handed it to the twelve-year-old parking attendant who waved us into the Marshfield Fair this weekend because I feel like everyone (especially twelve year old girls) should read it.

Oh, books. BOOKS.

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