Archive for July, 2010

July 7, 2010

Book Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

“So Mom got the postcard today. It says Congratulations in big curly letters, and at the very top is the address of Studio TV-15 on West 58th Street. After three years of trying, she has actually made it. She’s going to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid, which is hosted by Dick Clark.”

I loved The $20,000 Pyramid when I was growing up, so I was instantly hooked. Taking place during 1978-1979 in New York City, When You Reach Me is a unique, well-paced coming-of-age story, centering around Miranda, her mother’s quest to be on the game show and even more than that, around a series of mysterious letters Miranda receives. At first she doesn’t know what to do with them or what they mean.

I read this book very quickly, as it is only 197 pages. It manages to be sweet, interesting and humorous in parts without being too gimmicky. There’s enough going on plot-wise to keep the reader’s interest without getting too bogged down in extraneous detail. It was exactly what I needed. The past few books I’ve read have been sad, dystopian affairs, which while awesome, can take an emotional toll.

I have one quibble: I think Miranda was aged too young. She’s 12 in the book but to me, the story felt more like it had a 14 or 15 year old narrator. Miranda makes leaps that I didn’t feel a 12-year-old would make.
Another part I might have been able to do without was a plot point where Miranda & 2 of her friends work at a lunch counter during their school lunch breaks. It just didn’t work for me – it felt implausible & contrived, especially considering their age, even for the 1970s. However, given that I was born shortly before the setting of this novel(and not in NYC), perhaps that is an unfair assessment. I certainly don’t know what it was like to grow up in that time period or environment.

Overall, I would definitely recommend When You Reach Me and look forward to having a chance to read it again. It would make an excellent rainy day re-read or a wonderful crisp fall day first read. Just a suggestion.

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