When You Reach Me
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Miranda, a sixth-grader in the late 1970s, lives with her mother in a run-down New York apartment. Mom's boyfriend, Richard, spends much of his time with them. A latch-key kid, Miranda always walks home from school cautiously, particularly trying to avoid an insane old vagrant who hangs out near her building. Because of his crazy cackling, she and Mom refer to him as the laughing man.
When Miranda's best buddy, Sal, gets punched by another boy for no apparent reason, Sal abruptly ends his friendship with Miranda. Then Miranda starts getting strange notes. The anonymous writer says he's coming to save her friend's life and his own, and he needs Miranda to write a letter for him. The notes frighten Miranda, partly because they correctly predict future events, such as the date her mom appears as a contestant on "$20,000 Pyramid."
Miranda develops new friendships with classmates Annemarie (who has also "broken up" with her best friend, Julia) and Colin. Later, she meets Marcus, the boy who punched Sal. Seeing a copy of A Wrinkle in Time that Miranda always carries, Marcus provides thought-provoking commentary on the book. As they discuss the plausibility of time travel, Miranda realizes Marcus isn't mean, but he is extremely intelligent.
On her way home one day, Miranda sees Sal running from Marcus. Sal runs into traffic and is nearly hit. The laughing man kicks Sal out of the way and dies in his place. She finally realizes the laughing man, who is actually Marcus as an old man, sent her the notes. He has come back from the future to save Sal's life. Miranda's job is to write a letter to present-day Marcus, explaining the events that will transpire and reminding him to return to the past when he discovers how to travel through time.
The driver who almost hits Sal repeatedly cries, "Thank God," when he realizes the boy is fine.
Other Belief Systems
Mom's appearance on "$20,000 Pyramid" falls on the same day as Richard's birthday, and Mom thinks that may be a good omen. In a school assembly, Miranda tries to use her brain waves to make Sal turn around and look at her. She ponders the world millions of years ago and the evolution of it since then, including how animals became people. Mom says people walk around with invisible veils over their faces, and that at certain critical moments, the veils are lifted, and everything becomes clear. She says it isn't due to magic or God or angels, but it's because people get distracted by little things and ignore the big ones.
Miranda and Marcus discuss Einstein's theory of relativity in relation to time travel and events that take place in A Wrinkle in Time. By the end of the book, Marcus proves that time travel is a possibility and that the end of something can come before its beginning (time-wise).
Miranda says her mother calls something "a whole different bucket of poop," but that Mom doesn't use the word "poop." H--- and darn appear a few times. The Lord's name is taken in vain a few times, too. Mom drops something in the kitchen, and Miranda hears a bunch of cursing, though no actual swear words appear in the text.
Mom fears change, so she refuses to give Richard a key to her apartment. She's also nervous about letting him move in or accepting his offer of marriage. After her win on "$20,000 Pyramid," she gives him a key. The text also implies that he stays the night. Miranda mentions that she has kissed Colin a few times and that another boy kissed Annemarie.
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Nudity: The school shuts down its off-campus lunch policy a few times when a naked man is seen running down a nearby street. Miranda also thinks she sees a flickering image of a naked man standing near the laughing man. She ultimately realizes it was Marcus (as the laughing man) on one of his earlier time travel trips, practicing for his stay in New York. Time travel allows one to bring very little, including clothing.
Lying: Colin lies about where he's been when he is snooping through Jimmy's things. The school dentist lies to help hide Marcus when the police are after him.
Stealing: Colin takes bread from Jimmy's restaurant, but he says he wouldn't take money because that would be stealing. The laughing man steals Jimmy's bank full of $2 bills. Mom pilfers office supplies from work.
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Readability Age Range
9 to 14
Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books (a division of Random House, Inc.)
Newbery Award, 2010; The New York Times Notable Book, 2009; Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Books, 2009; Publisher's Weekly Best Children's Book of the Year, 2009