A story you'll remember - and revisit - for a lifetime.


It's 1979, and Miranda Sinclair (12) lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her single mom, who is getting ready to be on the $20,000 PYRAMID game show. Her best friend is Sal, a boy she has known since she was a small child. They are inseparable and do everything together. Until the day Sal gets punched, then he starts avoiding her.

Sal getting hit is just one of several unexplained events in Miranda’s life. First she has to pass by the laughing man, who throws his fist into the air, kicks his legs into the street, and keeps his head underneath a mailbox. Then there are the notes she is starting to receive. They appear in the most random places and seem to predict future events. Who is sending these notes? Why does the sender instruct Miranda to write a letter? Why did Sal stop talking to Miranda? 

BTSYA / Teen Reader (17):
When You Reach Me is one of my favorite books of all time, one reason being that I have never read something quite like this. I first crossed paths with this book in elementary school. Although I remember it being wonderful, I could not recall exactly what made it so amazing, but it is a novel I never forgot about. When I re-read this book recently, the elements that made this novel so brilliant and unique came rushing back to me.

This book won the John Newbery Medal, which recognizes books that have made a distinguishable contribution to children’s literature. “Distinguishable” is the exact word I would use to describe this novel. If you are anything like me, you will enjoy the hours spent reading explanations of this novel because you want to capture its excellence.

When You Reach Me is that the story is effortlessly captivating. The execution is stunning and the story is amazing. Aside from the mystery, everything else that happens is clear as day. Readers can spend time focusing on the mystery without being confused by outside events. The story’s complexity, thought, and meaning are revealed in the most subtle ways. For example, the scene where Marcus and Miranda discuss the concept of time travel in A Wrinkle in Time.

Although fictional, When You Reach Me explores real-life events. The author is a New York native, and she brings out unique elements of this in the story. She uses subtlety when addressing the idea that not every part of New York is as bright and shiny as Times Square. There are racists, people dealing with mental illness, and folks who are truly struggling to make it.

Truthfully, I have nothing negative to say. The only warning I would offer is that time travel may seem confusing. After re-reading this novel, I spent hours looking up explanations behind certain events in the story … which again, is what makes this novel brilliant. The story is so simple, yet so intricate that readers want to turn to the next page.

Personally, I recommend this novel to readers who are teens. When I was younger, it was in the children’s section of the library, but it is a young adult book. Although you can borrow the book at the library, I think it is best suited as a gift. Readers will enjoy this novel so much they will want a personal copy of it.

If you liked this book, you might also like The Higher Power of Lucky, A Wrinkle in Time, and Maniac Magee.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Readers who love interesting characters, unique stories and chasing a mystery will find themselves reading and re-reading When You Reach Me.

Content Awareness Factors:

None noted.

Type of Book:
This is a sci-fi novel that is set in real-world Manhattan with a bit of a mystery.
Educational Themes:

This is for fun. Though there have been re-makes of many game shows, the $20,000 Pyramid is one that is not in a revival. Find old episodes on YouTube to learn more. Also, grab a map (or a notebook) to jot down or mark all the interesting places Miranda explores in her story.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
10 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
9 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 17
Purchase Recommendation:
Buy. This is a story that is great for family read aloud, bedtime, and later your tween will want to read it on their own.

Title When You Reach Me
Author Rebecca Stead
Publisher Yearling © 2010 (Reprint Edition)
ISBN 9780375850868
Material Paperback
Cost $7.99
Genres Friendship, Mystery, Urban Fiction
be the star you are Cybils
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