Sunday, August 7, 2011

When You Reach Me

From about age 10 on to several years after Madeleine L'Engle was my hero.  I can't tell you how many times I read A Wrinkle in Time and A Ring of Endless Light .  A Wrinkle in Time especially, it was my favorite book through my middle school years.  When I read that this year's Newbery Award recipient When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead incorporated and paid tribute to A Wrinkle in Time I was intrigued but also a little concerned.  I didn't like to think about someone messing about with such a cherished piece of my childhood.   That's why it took me so long to get around to reading it.  I shouldn't have been worried.  Much.  When you Reach Me is a book about the complexities of being 12 (no matter the decade) with a dash of mystery and a sprinkling of science fiction tossed in for good measure.
What I liked:
  • Miranda, the main character, is a typical 12 year old living life in the 6th grade.  There is nothing extraordinary about her.  She is smart but not genius.  She is having problems with her best friend since babyhood.  She has discovered the swoopy feeling in the belly a boy's smile can cause.   She has prejudices about fellow classmates and is not always nice to others. She loves her mother but is embarrassed by the way she dresses and is snarky and often argumentative with her.   In short, Miranda is completely identifiable for the book's intended audience.
  • The plot is intriguing and the book hard to put down.  I read it in one sitting.  Despite the fact that I had it figured out early on I wanted to keep reading just to see how it all fit together.  As an adult cluing into who Miranda is telling the story to is not at all difficult.  I think it would be just as easy for some intermediate readers to figure it out but some, maybe most, will have one of those "Oh my goodness!" moments that are so delightful when reading a book for the first time.
  • Despite the fact that it takes place in 1978-79 I think it is accessible for modern readers.  6th grade is 6th grade.  I liked that this book was written in 2009, about a girl in 1978, who loves a book written in 1962.  A book kids still read and fall in love with today.
  • It pays homage to and mentions A Wrinkle in Time.  A lot.  
What Could Have Been Better:
  • The pacing of the book was a bit off.  It switches back and forth as Miranda thinks about the past months and the current moments she is living in.  At the beginning I found this really annoying.  I was engrossed in what I was learning of the story and then I was zapped back into whatever she was doing at the time.  It was choppy for over the first third of the book.
  • I really got kind of tired of having the rules and format of The $20,000 Pyramid explained to me.  I feel as though once would have been enough.  (And may I say this show was before my time just as it would be for current children.)
  • I found the way Miranda came to the realization of who her mystery person was kind of hard to swallow.
  • It pays homage to and mentions A Wrinkle in Time.  A lot.  So much so that I don't think you can fully appreciate this book if you haven't read A Wrinkle in Time.  And it sort of tells you the whole plot, including the ending so if you hadn't read it before why would you need to after?

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