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September 11, 2019

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

by Alison DeLuca


I went on a month-long Young Adult book binge in August. Prompted by Time's 100 Best Young Adult Books list, I worked my way through some amazing fiction.

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My favorite title was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Set in the 1970's, this novel evokes an era of The $20,000 Pyramid, Dick Clark, and A Wrinkle in Time.

cover for When You Reach Me

Wrinkle is Miranda's favorite book. As this sixth-grader negotiates school, life on the Upper West Side, and friendship, she constantly talks about L'Engle's book and the possibility of time travel.
Her mother has just won a spot on The $20,000 Pyramid, and the two spend their evenings in their apartment practicing - along with Richard, the mother's boyfriend.

Miranda has plenty of free time. Her best friend Sal refuses to have anything to do with her after a terrible bullying incident. Now she has to walk to school on her own past the strange Laughing Man. He repeats four words constantly: "book bag pocket shoe."

The Laughing Man isn't the only strange thing in Miranda's world: she's been receiving notes from an unknown person, someone who seems to know everything about her.

Sometimes these letter foretell the future.

Miranda makes new friends, Annemarie and Colin, by working at a sandwich shop. A loose triangle forms - and Miranda is unsure if she wants to risk her time with Annemarie by pursuing Colin.

This is a multi-leveled story. It's what happens in school, at home, with friends. Time-travel is, perhaps, the thread running throughout to turn When You Reach Me into a delightful piece, one that kept me up past midnight to read "just one more chapter."

Miranda is a delight, a character painted by a deft author so she breathes. I felt her struggles at the sandwich shop to cut the rolls correctly, her attempts to make up with Sal, those awkward forays into young flirtation.

As well, the seventies are perfectly evoked with clothes and music and just the general atmosphere of New York pollution and that earnest parent so intent on doing good deeds she neglects her daughter.

I'm definitely going to read more books from the Time list. How about you - which is your favorite?

Buy When You Reach Me at Amazon

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.


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