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Review: When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead)

Title: When You Reach Me

Author: Rebecca Stead
Genre: Fiction/Youth Lit
Pages: 197
Awards: Starred reviews in Booklist, Horn Book, Kirkus Review, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: (from the back of the book) 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, like the local grocery store, 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 on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own.
I ask two favors. First you must write me a letter.

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.

Review:  I have had this book on my TBR for a while, but it wasn't near the top. Each time I got to it, I passed it over and chose something else. Maybe I thought it was going to be creepy; I'm not sure. I am also not hot on the cover and, though I know I shouldn't do it, I often judge a book by its cover.

Then I got an email from my friend Sherri who teaches a University course in New York telling me that she used this book in her class and the students really liked it. OK. If Sherri read this book and liked it, it was time for me to read it, too. I picked it up the next day (yesterday) and finished it this evening. Wow. It took me a while to get into it, but once I got going I was intrigued. Who is sending the letters? How does s/he know all this stuff? Is s/he creepy or good? A couple times I thought I had it all figured out and I was right...kind of. I can't explain that more without spoiling the ending.

Miranda, the main character is about my age (12 in 1978) and there are funny peripheral stories about the $20,000 pyramid TV show, which I liked since I have vivid memories of watching that game show with my own mom. So, get past the cover and thinking it will be creepy and read When You Reach Me!

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