Chapter Books – When You Reach Me

It all started, Miranda decides, when Sal is punched in the stomach for no reason. That’s the day he stops speaking to her. It’s not long before that that her extra key goes missing from its hiding place, that a crazy man shows up on the street corner, and that she starts getting mysterious notes. Notes that contain information that no one could possibly know ahead of time. “I am coming to save your friend’s life and my own” one note says. But how? And why? And who is sending these notes? Miranda has no idea.

This is an incredibly remarkable novel. All of the various elements, from the weird notes to Miranda’s mother’s entry into the $20,000 Pyramid to her helping out at a local deli, they all meld together perfectly. There are no wasted plot threads, no extraneous matter that could have been excised. In an age of books that increasingly need editing, that is a wonderment in itself. The language is also fantastic, conjuring imagery that blooms in the mind.

The relationships are very well done as well. While I didn’t entirely believe her sudden change of heart in regard to Julia, I could see the reasoning behind it, and was willing to go along with it. Her relationship with her mother is fabulous. I particularly loved the scene where Miranda, very stressed out about her first sleepover with a new friend, is extremely startled to discover that her not-a-morning-person mother has gotten up early to make the girls omelets. Miranda says “I wanted to hug her. But didn’t.” How many of us, aged twelve, can relate to that scene?

The plot is intriguing as well. I wish that I had not read some of the reviews ahead of time because knowing that MINOR SPOILER ALERT the book features time travel END SPOILER meant that I saw a lot of the twists coming well ahead of time. I’m not sure I would have picked up on some of the turns if I hadn’t been primed for them ahead of time, but even seeing them coming, I was still intrigued to see where the author was going to go with the ideas.

Between the strong characterizations, equally strong relationships between the characters, the evocative language and strong plot, I will expect to see this book garnering awards left and right. I can also see it becoming a favorite book, read over and over and savored at length by certain children.

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