Tuesday, March 05, 2013

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead (The One Where I Don't Really Review the Book)

When You Reach Me was one of THE top recommended pieces of middle grade fiction that I saw being recommended . . . back in 2009 and 2010. Obviously, I'm a little slow on the draw here but at least I got to it, right? Better late than never?

Since that time I have picked up this book in several bookstores - and set it down again - more times than I can count. I work up the nerve to purchase it and then once it's in my hands I lose my nerve and go for something else instead. Finally, last week at our local Friends of the Library Book Sale, I spotted a copy and bought it! (I figured $2 and a good cause made it worth it. Then I can say I read it along with all the other "cool kids" out there, right!?)

Everything I am about to say should be prefaced by the fact that there is nothing in the book which, taken by itself and viewed under its own microscope should make me like it. It is full of things I either don't necessarily like or particularly care for. For example:

1. It is a "coming of age" story. I think.
2. There is some silly middle school romance. (Never a selling point with me.)
3. It is set in New York City. (I didn't care for my experience there. And I dislike big cities in general.)
4. The book references A Wrinkle in Time all throughout. (I didn't "get" that book. I know, I know. You can start hollering now.)

The premise for When You Reach Me is as follows (shamelessly and totally stolen from Amazon's description of it):

This remarkable novel holds a fantastic puzzle at its heart.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda's mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she's too late.

Usually I avoid reading other people's reviews of books before I've written my own because I wish to avoid repeating someone else's thoughts. However, in the case of this book I can't make up my mind quite what to think of it so I stopped after copying and pasting Amazon's description and decided to re-read a few reviews in order to help collect my thoughts.

* I started out reading Amy's review. (I find my comment on that post funny in light of my introduction to this book.) It appears that Amy couldn't quite put her finger on what makes this book so appealing to others. It is quirky. It is surprising. There is a great mystery throughout the book and it is wrapped up too quickly in the end without allowing the reader to really think through the facts and information. You connect dots only in retrospect.

* Ronnica at Ignorant Historian noted this book as a top favorite in 2010 and I generally like the books she likes.  Not real descriptive in her post there, but she did mention that it was fabulous a few times. Whenever I have debated over whether or not I think I would like this book, I remind myself that Ronnica mentioned several times that she liked it. A lot.

* Jennifer read it with her daughter, Amanda, and shared her thoughts at 5 Minutes for Books. As she points out in her review, you kind of don't really want to know what the book is about because the book is a ride. The sort you just sort of get on and find out what it's about as you go along. And hope you don't get sick in the middle of.

* Lastly, I knew that Sherry at Semicolon had highly recommended it, stating that it's worth your time and not to worry if you don't know where the book is heading, exactly, during the reading of it. You'll eventually find out. At the very end.

And really, the ladies and reviews I've listed above have summed it up already and there is not much I can add to what has been said. It is s mystery. Of sorts. It's also science fiction. It is set in the 1970's. And mostly, it is interesting and very unique. I think. I guess I can't say so for certain, not having read many books of this genre, exactly.

Despite the fact that I have no words of my own to tell you my exact opinion of it, you should know that I did rather enjoy the story, twelve-year-old kissers aside. (I will never understand teenage romances. Never.) This is not a book that I would go around enthusiastically recommending. Frankly, I think you'll do just fine in life if you never happen to pick up a copy of this book. But if you do, I don't think you'd be too sorry for the time spent with these characters. The ending is enough to make you pause and wonder over what just happened.

In short: Huh?!


Barbara H. said...

This one has me smiling. I'm not at all familiar with the book -- I don't have a middle grader anywhere near and am not drawn to books for that age generally. But your review just makes me smile. :-)

Cassandra said...

Like Barbara, your review made me smile. I've never heard of the book and will probably never read it. 12 year olds kissing? That would be my niece next year and she is no where near mature enough to be holding hands, much less kissing boys...

Audrey said...

I can relate to your distaste for juvenile romance. I'll never understand that either! Ick.

This isn't the kind of book I usually read, but I thought it was interesting and entertaining.

Annette Whipple said...

That is one unusual review. :) I liked it, even if you don't have me ready to read the least I know it's out there and others liked it.

*carrie* said...

Hmm--not sure what to do with that. Which is, I think, what your post-book conclusion was. =)

Taia said...

I adore A Wrinkle in Time. Obscure literary references, a story that depends on the physics fo time and a nerdy, plain female heroine. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...


Danielle @ wxroz said...

I've never heard of this book.. but now I totally want to read it!


BerlinerinPoet said...

I was going through your "reasons this shouldn't appeal to you," and thinking:
1. meh
2. YUCK!
3. yuck
4. A WRINKLE IN TIME!?! WHAT?! I'm SO reading this!

Diary of an Autodidact said...

It does strike me as a little amusing that an L. M. Montgomery partisan would object to middle school romance ;)

Danielle @ wxroz said...

I just finished this book! Here are my thoughts on it if you feel like checking them out. :)

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