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160 of 173 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Realistic novel with a heart of fantasy
"When You Reach Me" is a rare gem of young adult fiction: an involving story whose subtle writing and characterization pull you in as much as the mystery that binds the story together. I liked the slice of life of 1979 New York as twelve-year old Miranda and her friends explore their neighborhood, giving us a bit of a Free-Range Kids perspective on days gone by...
Published on July 15, 2009 by Amy Tiemann

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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing SPOILER ALERT
I was eager to read this book, having read a lot of positive press about it. I'm a teacher librarian and eighth grade English teacher who happens to be doubtful that this text would engage many of my students, especially--as others have noted--boys. First of all, I do think that that knowledge of A Wrinkle in Time is critical for a full understanding of the themes of...
Published on January 22, 2010 by Canadian Reader


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160 of 173 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Realistic novel with a heart of fantasy, July 15, 2009
This review is from: When You Reach Me (Hardcover)
"When You Reach Me" is a rare gem of young adult fiction: an involving story whose subtle writing and characterization pull you in as much as the mystery that binds the story together. I liked the slice of life of 1979 New York as twelve-year old Miranda and her friends explore their neighborhood, giving us a bit of a Free-Range Kids perspective on days gone by.

Miranda gains and loses friends, and grapples with normal sixth-grade angst, but her worries take on a new twist when she discovers mysterious notes from someone who tries to convince her that he or she can see things that have not happened yet, adding fantasy and sci-fi into this realistic setting where you'd least expect it. Once the mystery has been solved, many readers will want to go back and read the story a second time to see how the pieces fit together in a new light.

In a thematic parallel, Miranda's experiences reflect her own shifting ability to see situations through other people's eyes. She also learns that giving or withholding small acts of kindness or meanness can have big consequences. What I love though is that the story is told in a way that does not feel at all preachy.

This is a great book for anyone ages 10 and up. It would be okay for younger kids, but those readers have so many choices that I would save "When You Reach Me" for age 10, because in my experience it's harder to find good books for that age. Also, the point of view of the story is a bit tricky (skillful, but unconventional), as Miranda writes to her mystery correspondent, which could be confusing for younger readers but an interesting challenge for older kids.

As an adult reader and I thoroughly enjoyed "When You Reach Me." (I am actually Miranda's "age," 11 in 1979, and I loved the part about her Mom's obsession with the $20,000 Pyramid. Brought back memories.) In the story Miranda talks a lot about her favorite book, one that has captivated readers from the 1960's to today, A Wrinkle in Time, and I would recommend reading that first!
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74 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm a time traveler, too, January 3, 2010
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This review is from: When You Reach Me (Hardcover)
I have wanted to read this book ever since I heard librarian Nancy Pearl talk about it on NPR. She said the magic words: she said it was an homage to Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, one of my very favorite novels when I was a child a million years ago.

A Wrinkle in Time is also the favorite novel of 12-year-old Miranda, a sixth grader living in Manhattan in 1978. Miranda is rehearsing a story in her head. She needs to tell the story to a somewhat scary unknown person who's been leaving her hidden notes and appears to know the future. The first note says, "I am coming to save your friend's life and my own." It asks Miranda to write a letter relating the story of the events of the novel, and it asks that she deliver the letter by hand.

This is a bizarre and meaningless request when Miranda first reads it. But as the story unfolds, slowly, slowly, everything becomes clear. By the time you get to the end, you will understand everything that Miranda did.

Nancy Pearl and her librarian friends are predicting that When You Reach Me will win the Newberry Medal for "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." Let's see... The writing is excellent. The character's breathe life. The plotting is superlative. And one more thing--by the time I reached the end, I was truly moved. I don't know if it was the story's poignancy or if I was just feeling nostalgic or if it was something in between, but for a few hours this 41-year-old was 12 again. And if that's not time travel, I don't know what is.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind-blowing Experience, July 27, 2009
This review is from: When You Reach Me (Hardcover)
BOOK REVIEW: WHEN YOU REACH ME

I'll never forget the day I learned the wonders of the Mobiüs strip...mathematics wasn't my thing - I am a word nerd. So I was caught off guard when I was handed a thin blue strip of paper. "Now put a small twist in it like this," he explained. "Next, bring the ends together and tape them, like so." Then, I took my pencil, as instructed, and drew a thin carbon line, starting on the outside. I was stunned when I eventually connected it back and had one continuous strand, looping around on itself. I hung up that paper in my room and would stare at it, trying to figure out how it all worked. Not really understanding the physics behind it all, but loving the impossible rightness of it all.

That's the way I felt about WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead. It is just SO perfect, so impossible, so right...so perfectly impossibly right. I was stunned when I finished it, too. I propped it on the arm of the chair and just stared at the cover. "What in the world are you doing?" my husband asked. I was taking it in...turning the story over in my mind...reflecting on the perfect circle I had traveled. I could only say, "Wow." This book is an original, showing me logical ideas that seemed almost enchanted. Oh. My.

Here's the official summary: "As her mother prepares to be a contestant on the 1970's television game show, "The $20,000 Pyramid," a twelve-year-old New York City girl tries to make sense of mysterious notes received from an anonymous source that seems to defy the laws of time and space."

What the official summary for WHEN YOU REACH ME does not tell you is that this mid-grade novel will make you laugh...and then cry. It doesn't say this book is like a birthday present scavenger hunt, where you relish the chase of the clues to discover your gift. It doesn't warn you that you may never look at others the same again. Or explain that maybe what passes for commonsense is just you not opening your mind. That anything is possible.

Stead brings us back to the 1970's with ease - the fads, fashions, and life's everyday imagery is woven in seamlessly. I recognized it all, but never felt she was waving nostalgia in my face, shouting, "Look here, I did my research!" It was comfortable and right, just like it was penned in the year of the setting.

Her characters are just the right amount of flawed, not too perfect and not too odd - normal sixth graders, who are beginning to experience that innocent teenage angst. And then there is that mystery! We see it in the first chapter and spend the rest of the novel puzzling over it. I am not going to give you any hints or spoilers, because that would ruin the fun of discovery. Let's just say the students in my classroom are going to love the premise of those freaky letters mentioned in the official summary and they are going to sit with their mouths hanging open when they figure out who wrote them. Oh. My.

WHEN YOU REACH ME, Stead's second novel (after FIRST LIGHT) is amazing. I'm actually going to read it again right now. I want to watch closely how she did it...the way I want to catch the magician conjuring a rabbit...the way I used to trace that thin line around the Mobiüs strip. It seems like it just isn't possible, but she did it: The circle that flips and turns in on itself, forever spiraling.

WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead was released July 2009 by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House and is perfect for mid-grade readers, girls or boys (and the adults in the house, too).
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep read for adults, May 10, 2011
This review is from: When You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery) (Paperback)
I'm a 55-year-old mom who loved this book. I want to read it again to relish all the layers of the story, the mystery and the wonderful characters. Each chapter invited me into a different aspect of Miranda's life over several months like the dabs of paint in a Suerat painting--when I stand back I am amazed by the big picture. Never boring though very detailed, it moved me forward to a frightening yet beautifully encouraging resolution. The Amazon description suggests this is for the 9- to 12-year old bracket, though much of the story may only have meaning for an older audience. Definitely recommended!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When You Reach Me, December 16, 2009
This review is from: When You Reach Me (Hardcover)
I'm not a very fast reader. The time I have to devote to reading for pleasure, is very limited. In between checking papers for school and planning lessons, working on various projects around the house, and planning for the arrival of our first baby, I'm lucky if I can squeeze in 20 minutes of reading a night. Or every other night! Suffice it to say, the phrases "page turner" and "couldn't put it down" when describing books, don't really apply to me, because whether I like it or not, I have to eventually put books down. It takes a rare, special book, to steal my attention and force me to set aside certain responsibilities in order to return to it frequently. I could tell from the opening pages of WHEN YOU REACH ME, that it was one special book.

The setting is New York City. The time is 1979. Miranda, our narrator, is helping her mother prepare to be a contestant on the game show The $20,000 Pyramid. One day while walking home from school, Miranda's best friend Sal is punched by a stranger, once in the stomach and then once across the face, for no apparent reason. Sal hurries home without uttering a word to Miranda and their friendship, as she knows it, is suddenly over. Shortly after the incident, Miranda begins receiving mysterious notes from someone who seems to know more about Miranda's life than they ought to. Who is sending the notes? How do they know these things? And why Miranda?

It's been a long time since I've read anything quite as enthralling as this book. I simply couldn't put it down. And I can't afford to use that phrase lightly. I would read a few pages or so, put it down to check papers, or plan lessons, or do some household chores, only to return to it minutes later to continue reading. Before I knew it, the day was getting shorter and I was past the point of no return. I finished the book that same day. From the opening page when Miranda's first person narrative breaks away to cryptically state "Just like you said", I was hooked. This was not just a story for us readers, this was a story being told to a certain someone. And the mystery of who that someone is sucks you in and pulls you along through the book.

The story she's telling wouldn't be worth a thing to the reader if Miranda wasn't such a richly drawn character. She's endearing (there's times you want to let her cry on your shoulder) and she's imperfect (there's times you want to slap her across the face and shake some sense into her). She misses her best friend Sal and is trying her hardest to make new friends and fill the void. She befriends Annemarie and Colin, but is jealous of the budding romance between the two of them. She hates Julia but is forced to tolerate her because she's Annemarie's best friend. And she wants to hate Marcus because he's the boy who punched Sal for no apparent reason, but she can't help falling into conversations with him. All these conflicting dynamics add a certain level of authenticity to these characters and this setting, which only further strengthens the plot. These characters are all very real, and adults and kids alike will be able to connect with them.

In order to keep up on my ever growing To-Read list, I don't often have the liberty of re-reading a text. Unless of course, it's something I find suitable for my 5th grade class at school, in which case, I use it as a classroom read aloud. WHEN YOU REACH ME is a book that just begs for multiple readings, so while my motives may have been a tad selfish, I just had to read it to my students. And I have to say, the book only gets better with a second reading! Having read it once and knowing what I now know, things stand out that went completely unnoticed the first time. Clever pieces of the puzzle are scattered throughout the text and I'm sure a third reading would reveal even more! Not a single sentence is wasted by author Rebecca Stead.

This is a genre-busting book that defies classification. Is it realistic fiction? Is it historical fiction? Is it fantasy? Is it science fiction? It may be all of the above . . . with a little jealousy and romance and humor sprinkled in between. It's heartwarming, it's maddening, it's suspenseful, and it's a brilliant contribution to the world of children's literature. Hopefully, a book that will be loved and talked about for many years to come.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Things That Make Me Glad I Read This Book, January 25, 2011
By 
Chance Lee (New Hampshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: When You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery) (Paperback)
A crazy man on the street corner repeatedly chants "Bookbag, pocketshoe, bookbag, pocketshoe." Miranda, the twelve-year-old narrator of When You Reach Me, the winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal, walks past this man every day. He is the laughing man. He's a fixture in her neighborhood. While he certainly weirds her out, she doesn't really have a problem with him. "It's crazy the things a person can pretend not to notice," Miranda observes.

Miranda notices a lot, often making wry observations about everyday occurrences in her seemingly mundane world. She frets about what her and her mom's apartment must look the first night she brings a new friend over. Who hasn't brought someone over to their place-a new friend, a date-and thought, "Holy crap! They can't see my place like this!" and immediately zeroed in on all the microscopic flaws of their house or apartment. Even though any good friend or good date isn't going to notice or care.

Miranda takes a lot in stride. She has a cool head on her shoulders. Even when strange, supernatural things start to happen, like receiving letters from the future, she accepts them. They're normal to her in a world where her mother, a single parent, wears orange sweaters, denim skirts, and purple-and-black striped tights to work and steals pens and paper from the office. They're normal in a world where one kid punches another for seemingly no reason. They're normal in the late-seventies world where Miranda, at twelve, has a part-time job making sandwiches in a local deli. Her salary: a sandwich and a soda. What is normal after all?

The book is structured around the $20,000 Pyramid, iconic late-seventies early-eighties game show hosted by Dick Clark. Appropriate, given that the Egyptian pyramids are often rumored to be linked to time-travel in some sort of way. Soon after her mother gets a postcard saying she'll be on the Pyramid, Miranda receives a mysterious note from the future. The mystery unfolds at a brisk pace. The notes Miranda receives are eerie and unsettling, but they never seem to phase her. She's a latchkey kid-a Schusselkinder in German, her mom's boyfriend tells her; she's used to thinking for herself.

When You Reach Me captured my imagination in ways that most adult books do not. I was excited to tuck my tessellated-bird Escher bookmark between its pages, and almost sad when the book ended. Miranda's journey is both small and personal, and large enough to span forwards and backwards through time. I recommend this book for all ages, especially fans of time travel, or Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, Miranda's favorite book.
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32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars things that are different, July 7, 2009
By 
Yoomi (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When You Reach Me (Hardcover)
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There seems to be an overabundance of books with vampires and magic these days so it is very refreshing to read something different. And different in a very good way. It's a mystery who is leaving Miranda strange notes and how this person knows things about her that no one could know. But there are other things she needs to figure out too. Like why the new kid punches Sal, why Sal stops talking to her, and why she doesn't like Julia.

Rebecca Stead deals with the usual angst of adolescence with a good hold on reality with characters that felt like they could be the kids next door. She seems to remember what it felt like to be twelve, except I don't remember being so deep as to think that

"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."

But I could relate to Miranda's love of "A Wrinkle in Time" and her struggle to figure out where she fits in with friends and enemies and how things can change. I can't say more without giving away more of the story, which I would hate to do because it was such a satisfying read. All I can say is, things are not always as they seem.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing!, March 27, 2012
By 
Pop Bop "Pause and Reflect" (Denver, Colorado, United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: When You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery) (Paperback)
Remember Jon Lovitz's Master Thespian from Saturday Night Live? He was ACTING!
Well, I thought of that for this note because Rebecca Stead is WRITING! There are lots of fine middle grade and YA books that work because of interesting characters or creative world building or engaging plots. or whatever. But there really aren't that many YA books that feature fine literate writing. There are beautiful phrases, wonderful insights, startlingly sharp lines in this book. Actual, "hey, honey, let me read this to you" paragraphs.

So, putting aside the characters, the intricate plot, the scene setting - this could be your young reader's introduction to fine, polished, restrained, compelling WRITING!.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing SPOILER ALERT, January 22, 2010
This review is from: When You Reach Me (Hardcover)
I was eager to read this book, having read a lot of positive press about it. I'm a teacher librarian and eighth grade English teacher who happens to be doubtful that this text would engage many of my students, especially--as others have noted--boys. First of all, I do think that that knowledge of A Wrinkle in Time is critical for a full understanding of the themes of Stead's book. Even with that book in one's "schema" backpack, however, When You Reach Me may still not engage. It is a quiet book and I don't think there IS enough action to "grab" many grade 4-8 students. Those who do hang on might be curious as to how Marcus actually does travel through time--no hints are supplied. I'd say Nancy Etchemendy's Power of Un is a far stronger read. I'm frankly surprised that Stead's book won The Newbery. However, that it did so tends to confirm a phenomenon much discussed over the last year or so: how relevant and appealing the award winners actually are to the children they are supposedly written for.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "She calls them SSO's, which stands for 'strawberry shaped objects.'", October 27, 2012
By 
Amazon Customer (Somersworth, New Hampshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery) (Paperback)
"When You Reach Me" is a middle grade novel that had a lot of promise, but it never quite came together for me. Rebecca Stead is undoubtedly talented, and for the most part, I enjoyed her writing. She skillfully plays with language, inserting such thoughful nuggets as:

""It's simple to love someone,' she said. 'But it's hard to know when you need to say it.'" (page 149)

"Einstein says common sense is just habit of thought. It's how we're used to thinking about things, but a lot of the time it just gets in the way." (page 51)

However, for a story that relies so heavily on a science fiction twist, I found it rather dull. I almost felt as if I were suffocating inside of the bland, colorless apartment that the characters spend so much time within. And although there are definitely some clever clues inserted throughout the body of the text, toward the very end of the book, there is a suspicious amount of what I believe to be "retconning"- when characters verbally describe things that supposedly happened off the page, thereby justifying the plotline and tying up loose ends, as if inserting rationale at the final hour. This is not to say that "Until You Reach Me" is a bad story- it isn't, and it certainly has some worthwhile moments. It just failed to draw me in like the best of stories can do.
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When You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery)
When You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery) by Rebecca Stead (Paperback - December 28, 2010)
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