Miranda is a sixth-grader, living in New York City. Her best friend is a neighbor boy named Sal, and they spend almost all their time together. When the book opens, Miranda and Sal are starting to part ways for reasons that she doesn’t fully understand. Her mother is auditioning for a game show, and there’s a crazy homeless guy on her corner that scares her. Suddenly she starts getting anonymous notes from someone who seems to know things about her that shouldn’t be possible.
This book is sort of science fiction, but I liked how accurately–but kindly–it portrayed preadolescence. Miranda is in an awkward stage, and she doesn’t have a lot of friends, but she has a wonderful ability to put herself in other people’s shoes that allows her to show them unexpected kindness. She’s an endearing protagonist but still seems like a real kid.
As I was reading When You Reach Me, I really had no idea how the disparate elements would ever come together. I was content to keep reading, though, enjoying Stead’s writing and a story which was engaging, even though it seemed to have no real plot. Miranda makes some new friends, and they start spending their lunch hour working in a sandwich shop, being paid in free sandwiches. She meets a strange kid at her school and they have a discussion about A Wrinkle in Time. Someone breaks into her house and takes nothing but a pair of shoes. And through it all, she keeps getting these weird notes (I can’t say more about the notes because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it before). Nothing seems to go together, but it’s still fun to read about. It’s kind of a strange little book, but enjoyable.
Once the pieces fell into place, though, I really, really, liked this book. The ending is exciting and I found myself gasping out loud when I put it all together. This book is tidy–even though it seemed like a bunch of random happenings, they all turned out to be important and connected in the end. When You Reach Me is the sort of book that would be fun to go back and reread, once you know the ending, so you can see from the start how it all comes together. It was a very satisfying read.