2010: When You Reach Me (Just a Matter of Time)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 4/5

Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me is a thoughtful mystery that blends the young adult themes of friendship, tolerance and growing up with timeless science fiction concepts.

Miranda is a sympathetic point of view character. Intelligent, caring and observant, she grows up throughout the book as she interacts with a wide variety of characters – her studious mother who is looking to win big at a game show, a former best friend who no longer talks to her, a new best friend who has health issues, the stereotypical mean girl with questionable motives, the smart bully who occasionally discusses time travel with her, and the crazy homeless man she has to walk by each day on the way home from school.

Each character’s plot is tangentially threaded throughout the book as Miranda looks to find the person who is sending her mysterious letters – letters wherein the writer knows impossible things about her, even events that have not yet happened. Miranda slowly starts adding up the clues from the messages, and her thoughtful observances allow the story to gradually escalate, with no plot taking up too much page count, as Miranda finally eventually comes to her out-of-this-world revelation at the end of the book.

I’m not quite sure the sci-fi twist at the end worked for me. While the clues were all laid out for readers to figure out, the sudden genre-blending is slightly disconcerting and took me out of the moment. The resolution let me down as the book is never marketed as science fiction, just as a contemporary children’s fiction novel. Nevertheless, assuming this twist ever happened in reality, it would take people be surprise too.

The clever When You Reach Me is an enjoyable Newbery read. The mystery keeps the pace fairly quick, the characters are intriguing to read about, and its mixing of genres has a little bit of something for every reader.

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