Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead

Melanie has been telling me I should read this book for months now. And she was entirely right!

The story takes place in 1979. Miranda lives with her mother in an apartment in New York, directly above her best friend Sal (a boy Sal, not a girl Sal) who lives with his mother. She and Sal are friends, they go to school, they hang out... and then things change. And strange notes start showing up for Miranda. This book is a letter, written by Miranda to the mysterious note-writer, that explains how and why.

I don't want to tell too much about the reason that I think Melanie knew I'd love it, because it's such a great surprise at the end when all the pieces come together. I will say that the author mentions on the cover that she was inspired by Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time", and it shows! Like "A Wrinkle in Time", it's a little bit science fiction, but you hardly notice. There are plenty of other good elements to discuss here, though.

One of the bigger elements running through this book is the exploration of friendships and how they can/should/don't work sometimes. Miranda and Sal had been best friends from the time they were babies. Sal needed a break from Miranda, it turns out, but didn't know how to convey that other than starting to ignore her. This of course hurt her deeply, but it did mean that she started making new friends, and a lot of good came of that. And she and Sal eventually make it up. Sometimes a best friend keeps you from having other good friends - Miranda and Sal are not the only ones in the book who discover this.
Another element is that of regret. It's not as obvious a topic for a kid's book, but I really loved how it was handled here. Great opportunity for discussion - are there things that happened a long time ago that you still feel bad about? Would you do anything differently if you could go back? Did you ever do something, that turned out to have effects you didn't predict? Could you have predicted them?

As I said after reading "The Black Pearl", the essay questions practically write themselves for this book - but this time, I think the questions/discussions would actually be fun. Totally read this - it's pretty quick (not quick enough for the tag, but a day or two will easily do it!) and a great time!

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