Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Miranda's mom is going to be on The $20,000 Pyramid on April 27, 1979. Miranda knew, of course, that something important would happen on April 27, 1979 at Studio TV-15. After all, the other proofs written in the cryptic note she received were true. "Christmas Day: Tesser Well." Mysterious, but true. And "3 p.m. today: Colin's knapsack" the day she received the note. Also mysterious, and also very true.

More accurately, someone else knew these things would happen. Miranda only knew because she received the note.

Miranda received several notes. The first note said "I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own” and requested a return letter from Miranda, even though the note is unsigned. The second note asked Miranda not to tell anyone about the notes and reminded her to write the letter. The third note offered the proofs.

The notes add to the complications in Miranda’s life. Her best friend since forever, Sal, who lives in the apartment downstairs, has suddenly stopped being friendly. She begins a new friendship with Annemarie and Colin. A homeless man, called the laughing man, moves into her neighborhood. Middle school troubles – from first jobs to friendships to getting a class project proposal approved by Jimmy Stringer, head of the class Main Street Planning Board – are all part of Miranda’s life and are all accurately portrayed.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle is Miranda’s favorite book. It’s been a favorite of mine too, so I was intrigued by Miranda and Marcus’s discussion about when Meg and Calvin return home in the book. Marcus, a neighborhood boy, explains, “So if they had gotten home five minutes before they left, like those ladies promised they would, then they would have seen themselves get back. Before they left.”

Which leads me to this: A traumatic event occurs in a person’s life. This tragedy affects the person so immensely that it creates a personal desire to change the event. The person seeks to discover the secret of time travel and succeeds. He then he travels back in time to prevent the tragic event from ever happening.

So now, with the tragic event no longer occurring, doesn’t the impetus to seek out the secret of time travel disappear, causing the traumatic event to once again occur?

It’s a disruption in the time/space continuum worthy of Doc Brown.

Then again, kids are geniuses when it comes to suspension of disbelief. (And don't we still love Back to the Future?) Adults are just so … so … well, they’re just so grown up. When You Reach Me is a page turner, most certainly. I only came up with my grown-up thoughts the next morning while getting ready for school, certainly not while I was reading. I was too captivated.

Kids will be too.

Then again, wouldn’t it be easier to just take one simple step to the left? It works for this girl.

I wonder if Rebecca Stead is a fan of Relient K.

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