Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me is a novel that sneaks up on you, catches you and won’t let go.
Sixth grader Miranda lives in New York City, savvy to its ways. She loses her best friend Sal after he is punched in the stomach by a stranger. Then she starts receiving notes, strange notes that ask her to write a letter and tell her about things that haven’t happened yet. Her mother is bent on winning a TV game show. And Miranda reads and rereads A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
All of these connect.
Set in the everyday of 1978, Miranda has a mystery to solve that requires understanding more than the everyday—the very meaning of here and now, it seems. Along the way, she stumbles and is forced to rethink what she knows. She discovers that unlike IT in L’Engle’s masterpiece, evil doesn’t lie in some dangerous being outside of ourselves, but in the misunderstandings we have of each other.
The book has lingered in my thoughts. It may strike some as realistic fiction with a twist. Others as science fiction with a large dose of realism. Whatever. It made me think about what it means to be a caring human being.