When You Reach Me is deceptively simple and wonderfully complex – a truly creative and eye-opening story about family and friendship.
Miranda and Sal live in the same apartment complex and have been best friends forever… until the day Sal got punched. And since that day, weird things have been happening: her key gets stolen, letters that make no sense show up, and the kid who punched Sal is actually warming up to Miranda. Miranda has to figure out what the letters really mean and how to get Sal back again while helping her mom prep for a game show and making new friends (which is pretty hard in sixth grade).
Miranda’s voice in When You Reach Me shows her youth; the simplistic and straightforward narrative is like a looking glass that focuses on action rather than reflection, and it’s really up to the reader to draw inferences and connect the dots. Miranda is a quiet character who has her own insecurities and issues, and it’s refreshing to see a protagonist who doesn’t have a “loud” personality.
I liked the references to L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Miranda’s favorite book, because of how it draws out the wonder and imagination that kids at that age still have. When You Reach Me is like soft science fiction (kind of like magic realism, but science fiction realism, if that’s a thing), and the book references hint at that throughout the story. The story also jumps back and forth in time and space in a disjointed sort of way until everything becomes clear at the end, and this “sharpening” effect is really cool and eye-opening.
When You Reach Me is just slightly (SLIGHTLY) out of my age range, so that might be why I liked it, but felt that it was not as captivating as it should have been. Stead’s refreshingly straightforward writing style complements the intricate storyline of When You Reach Me, so if you’re in the mood for something quick and low-key with a tinge of imagination and sci-fi, give this book a try.