Thursday, December 24, 2009

Book Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Well, Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me has been all over the gosh darn place, and for awhile at that. I had it on my hold list for the Boulder Public Library, but last night I caved and bought it. I know, Dear Reader, the power that books have over me is not altogether healthy. And definitely not normal.

But, I did have a birthday gift card to spend AND I bought it at the Boulder Bookstore. Which is local. So back off, yo.

So like I said, everyone and their puppy is gushing about this book. I must say, I too enjoyed it. Although, for the record, I called the plot on page 98. But, I am the psycho who correctly deduced the Snape relationship from HP 3 (yes THAT relationship). Really. None of the other books were out yet, just Azkaban in hardcover. And I have witnesses who remember me going on and on about my theory: Harry's eyes, and Voldemort telling her to get out of the way, and WHY WOULD HE DO THAT, HMM? They thought I was crazy at the time, but oh ho ho - I showed them.

Off topic.

When You Reach Me is soooo grood. Like all the other reviewers out there, I want to keep my mouth mostly shut about it, because it's so much fun to just jump in and discover the story. I love the way Stead writes dialogue, I love her sense of humor, I love her awareness of how much children and teenagers are aware of, I love New York in the 70s, all of it. And of course, I love the references to Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, a classic if ever there was one. And, just to really make me love it, she gives us a character who is a bona fide gifted kiddo, with the shitshow that comes along with that. Here's an excerpt of the main character, Miranda, discussing A Wrinkle in Time with gifted kiddo, Marcus:

He picked up my book from the table and flipped through it. "Actually I had almost the same conversation with my teacher right after I read this. She didn't understand me at first either."
"She? Mr. Anderson is a he. You don't really notice much about people, do you?"
"Not Mr. Anderson. This was in second grade. I wrote a book report about it."
"In second grade?"
p. 52

Actually, I think A Wrinkle in Time is perfectly reasonable for a strong second grade reader. I think it should be reread regularly later though, to really appreciate it.

When You Reach Me, on the other hand, is maybe best to read for the first time between 9 and 13; that adolescent inbetweeny time when you start figuring out the world, and money, and friends, and love. In a way, it's sort of like a tween version of The Catcher in the Rye
- Stead perfectly captures a snapshot of growing up, that time when the world shifts and is never the same again.

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