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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Contemporary Realistic YA Fiction Book Review: WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead



WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead


 














1.  BIBLIOGRAPHY
Stead, Rebecca. 2010. WHEN YOU REACH ME. New York, NY: Wendy Lamb Books. ISBN: 978-0375850868

2.  PLOT SUMMARY 
When Miranda's best friend Sal is punched one day after school by a bully he stops wanting to be her friend.  As she tries to make new friends and understand how she lost her old one, Miranda starts receiving mysterious notes asking her for strange favors.  As the notes keep coming, she realizes that one of her friends is in danger and she needs to figure out what the messages mean before it’s too late.

 3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS 
Stead has brought us back to the 1970s where cell phones, laptops, tablets and iPods are non-existent.  There is simplicity to the life of Miranda in her everyday routines of helping her mom practice for a game show and walking to school every morning with her best friend Sal. The story is told entirely through the eyes of Miranda and you experience the life of a typical twelve-year-old girl who falls into misunderstandings, feels insecure about where she lives, clashes with other girls her age, and tries to understand how to rekindle or move-on from a childhood friendship that has been part of her life since she can remember.  Stead’s writing style is conversational and effortless and allows you to easily fall into the mind of Miranda.  Complex relationships are intertwined throughout the story as Miranda has to cope with losing a friend, learn how to build and keep new ones, all while trying to figure out how these mysterious notes are supposed to help her save her friend.  Strange occurrences about a naked man running outside the school or the ramblings of a crazy homeless man who sleeps under a mailbox seem like random events. But, if you’re not paying attention you can miss the many clues Stead incorporates throughout the story and its plot that eventually lead to an astonishing ending.  You are constantly trying to figure out who could be sending Miranda the strange notes, who stole her spare apartment key, and how the clues and proofs fit together.  

Miranda also grows throughout the story as she learns that being mean is a choice, that she doesn’t know it all, and that even the worst person she can think of can be redeemed.  It’s a coming of age story as well as a mystery entwined into a satisfying read that keeps the audience enthralled and engaged till the very end.


4. REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
NEWBERY HONOR BOOK, 2010
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK, 2009
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
BOOKLIST EDITORS’ CHOICE: BOOKS FOR YOUTH, 2009
YALSA - BEST BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS, 2010
ALSC- NOTABLE CHILDREN’S BOOKS, 2010

KIRKUS starred Review: "[W]hen all the sidewalk characters from Miranda's Manhattan world converge amid mind-blowing revelations and cunning details, teen readers will circle back to the beginning and say,'Wow ... cool.'"

BOOKLIST starred Review: "[T]he mental gymnastics required of readers are invigorating; and the characters, children, and adults are honest bits of humanity no matter in what place or time their souls rest."

HORN BOOK starred Review: "Closing revelations are startling and satisfying but quietly made, their reverberations giving plenty of impetus for the reader to go back to the beginning and catch what was missed."

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL starred Review: "This unusual, thought-provoking mystery will appeal to several types of readers."

 5. CONNECTIONS
* This book is great to share with middle grade students who can relate to Miranda social relationships and who love a good mystery.

*Collect other books written by Rebecca Stead: LIAR & SPY and FIRST LIGHT.

*Other juvenile fiction mystery books:
Anderson, M.T. THE GAME OF SUNKEN PLACES. ISBN: 978-0439713320
Carey, Benedict. ISLAND OF THE UNKNOWNS: A MYSTERY. ISBN: 978-0810996632
Turnage, Sheila. THREE TIMES LUCKY. ISBN: 978-0803736702

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