When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is one of those peculiar books that still seem to attract me even though it is intended for middle schoolers. Also, it has earned a Newbery medal, so that is always encouraging.
I am delighted to say that the book was great. It is books like this one that make me want to scourge the children section again for hidden gems. Rebecca Stead crafts a charming protagonist by the name of Miranda. Miranda is smart for a sixth-grader, but not too smart to fight off middle-school problems like friendship, family, and boys. She is also very much in love with A Wrinkle in Time, which automatically makes me like her even more.
I definitely recommend this book for children, as I see it teaches many worthwhile values on bullying and racism. I also recommend it for those who are interested in the concept of time travel.
you had already read my letter. You had read it many times, even though I have not yet written it.
Stead takes the concept of time travel and weaves it throughout the book. A Wrinkle in Time is a great allusion, even though it is never formally cited. At first, Miranda sees time as something that progresses in a linear fashion. Her story makes readers realize that time is actually much more dynamic than that. For example, Marcus questions Miranda’s concept of time with the story from A Wrinkle in Time. In the story, the characters time travel and are supposed to return back to the garden 5 minutes before they left. Marcus’s argument is that if they really did return 5 minutes before they left, the characters would see themselves appearing. Basically, the characters who time travel (let us call them A and B) would return to the garden, where the characters at that present time, who are preparing to leave (let us call them C and D), would see A and B drop from the sky and into the garden.
Now instead of a line of events, time has become a never-ending cycle of moments. This is why the story of Miranda’s letters from the future is very interesting. In one part, she is supposed to write a letter describing where she hid her house key, but at that time the key had already been stolen because the future Miranda would have already written the letter.
If this concept of time- that it is like a diamond, with each side of the diamond representing a moment that happens simultaneously as all the other sides- is true, then that implies that the final outcome will not change. The events that follow will definitely follow and it becomes a never-ending cycle. In other words, we as one individual in the procession of events cannot change our destinies or fates.
A stranger is just a friend you have not met yet
Sometimes you never feel meaner than the moment you stop being mean.
Friendship is a big theme in When You Reach Me. Miranda grows up with her childhood friend, Sal, who begins to avoid her because he wants to play basketball with boys. With the loss of her one friend, Miranda learns to befriend other classmates. Miranda learns to understand many things about friendship, like how to handle her jealousy towards Annemarie’s wealthy family. She also becomes friends with a girl she initially dislikes, Julia. Miranda is able to overcome her prejudice against Julia’s bossy attitude and realizes that Julia has other sides of her such as her love for space and her thoughtfulness towards Annemarie’s medical condition. Miranda also learns to become friends with Marcus, a genius boy who ponders about complicated theories, even though she doesn’t necessarily agree with his thoughts at first. In the end, I don’t think there is a single character who Miranda does not establish a positive relationship with, including “the laughing man” in the alley street.
I like how Miranda is able to put away her judgments -good or bad- and take a chance to learn people for who they are.
Sometimes people can surprise you, if you let them.