Friday, October 16, 2015

Future tense

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead snagged my attention as soon as I saw it.  On the cover, city blocks are laid out like a giant monopoly board, with one or two objects on each square; a key, a shoe, lamp post, a two dollar bill. Intrigued, I read the inside front dust jacket, and was hooked!

The story is narrated by Miranda, a sixth grader who lives in New York City with her mother.  Miranda is best friends with Sal, the boy who lives in the apartment below. When Sal is punched for no reason on his way home from school, he stops speaking to her.

Miranda gets to know Marcus, the boy who punched Sal, and they find they share a common passion; the book "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle.  They enjoy debating the paradox of time travel, and wonder if it would be possible for a future self to meet a past self.

Mysterious notes start showing up, imploring Miranda to help the writer save someone.  At first she thinks the notes are a joke, but events they mention start to come true.

While this book was written for middle-school children, it has an honesty and appeal that go beyond age categories. Miranda is a young girl branching out with new friendships and having her first crush.  She has a close relationship with her mother, yet they sometimes argue. And then there is a homeless man who sleeps under the mailbox by her apartment. Who is he, and why does he behave so bizarrely?  Like the pieces on an intricate board game, the players move through their paces to an inevitable, but unexpected conclusion.

When You Reach Me won the 2010 John Newbery Medal, an award for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. You can reserve your copy here.

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