When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Published in 2011 by Andersen Digital
My copy: Second-hand copy
Miranda’s life is starting to unravel. Her best friend, Sal, gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The key that Miranda’s mum keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives:
‘I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. I ask two favours. First, you must write me a letter.’
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realises 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.
12-year-old Miranda is having a strange time. Her very best friend got punched in the face for no reason and has stopped talking to her. The homeless man at the end of the street is doing strange things, she may be involved in a love triangle – and there’s spaghetti for dinner again.
This Young Adult novel is a real pleasure to read, and I got through it in just a day. I found I really couldn’t put it down. It is weird and quirky at times, and this works brilliantly well for two reasons. Firstly, all the weird stuff slots in neatly alongside the normal, mundane, everyday stuff, so it never feels forced or too far-fetched. Also, we experience everything alongside our narrator, Miranda, so we are just as confused as she is.
There is also the mystery element of the book – Miranda refers to “you” but we don’t know who this is, and we are constantly trying to work it out. There are a few red herrings along the way and I came up with lots of theories over the course of the book, which was quite fun. The theme of time travel threatens to get complicated at times, but again the novel deals with it well by making sure our narrator is equally confused, and the people who explain concepts to her do so using examples which are also helpful to the reader.
There is also a sub-plot involving a quiz show which works really well, and adds another thread to the book which is quite funny, and also introduces us nicely to Miranda’s quirky mum. In fact the other characters in the book are all quite endearing and have their own personalities and flaws that make them human, and help make the story feel well rounded.
Overall I really liked this YA novel, which I think would be suitable for those aged around 11 or 12. It is fun to read, keep you guessing and makes you think. I will definitely read more from Stead. I also love the cover!
My rating: 9 out of 10