When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner. But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda's mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she's too late.





It's 1979 in New York City, NY. Close friends Miranda and Sal, now sixth graders, having grown up in this city, are now used to the tough streets and the need to be vigilantly aware of your surroundings. Most days pass uneventfully, until the day Sal is strangely assaulted by a classmate, an attack that is completely unprovoked. Miranda, a stunned witness to the incident, manages to get Sal home shortly after but in the days that follow Sal starts to retreat more and more within himself, until he just stops associating with Miranda altogether. Does he blame her in some way? Why the distance from her?


Miranda also starts to notice other strange events after this attack. The spare key to her apartment that her mother hides in a nearby firehose cabinet goes missing. Then the notes start coming in. Cryptic notes that tell of a stranger coming to Miranda, but the writer of the notes requires two favors of her before their arrival.


"The trip is a difficult one. I will not be myself when I reach you."


"I know you have shared my first note. I ask that you do not share the others... I do not ask for myself..."


~ just a couple of the lines from some of the notes



The notes also mention the mystery writer coming to save the life of Miranda's friend. Scared of what that might mean exactly, Miranda knows she must discover the truth behind the messages before it's too late. 


There are some interesting and unexpected sci-fi twists within this plot but overall I felt like this story moved WAY too slow for the kind of story it was trying to be. The reader has to wade through 60 pages of mostly uneventful scenes before we even get to the first note! I was also hoping there were be more done with the notes themselves. There are only just a few written into the entire novel. I was thinking Miranda would get to investigating, go on this amazing journey that took her all over the city. But her trying to figure out the mystery of the notes felt more like an afterthought. It seemed like the majority of the plot was her either pouting about why Sal wouldn't talk to her or her chillin' with her new friends at their part-time job at the sandwich place. Left me thinking, "okay, this is great and all but WHERE IS THE PLOT?!"


I liked (and was surprised by) the incorporation of Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time, a childhood favorite of mine. If you haven't read it, you might want to hold off on reading this one because the references will likely either be confusing (as far as trying to figure out relevance to this story) or spoiler-y. 


When You Reach Me is a short, fast read where the characters were entertaining and varied in personality enough to keep me reading to the end, but I have to admit, I'm still scratching my head a bit as to why it was so lauded and even got the Newberry Award stamp of approval?! 


I did read that Amber Entertainment had been granted movie rights to this book back in 2010 but from what I can tell, it looks like whatever they started to do with the movie adapt is stalled or STILL mid-production.