“The girls at school had been hurting each other’s feelings for years before Sal left me and I was forced to really notice them. I had watched them trade best friends, start wars, cry, trade back, make treaties, squeal and grab each other’s arms in this fake-excited way, et cetera, et cetera.” – When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead
I wish right now more than ever that I’m a coherent person enough, that I’m good enough a writer, so that I could write about this book in a way it deserved to be written about. Not being either, I could only say that this book completely blew me away, and list out some of the reasons why I loved it.
(1) The narrator, Mira, is a twelve-year-old who carries with her at all times a copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time. I was probably about her age when I read it for the first time, and it’s still one of my favourite books ever (along with L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle and Fire and Hemlock… the list goes on. And on.) But, yes. I’ve re-read A Wrinkle in Timeenough to know the first line of the book without checking, and I loved Meg and Calvin and Charles Wallace.
(2) The fact that it’s science fiction without being too science-fictiony. Which also reminds me of Madeleine L’Engle, although L’Engle’s work are a lot more science-fictiony than this novel. Anyway, the conversation between Marcus, Julia and Mira about time travel was one of my favourite scenes.
(3) The fact that it’s also a mystery, even though like with all mysteries I’ve read, I knew who sent Mira the letters from the moment the character came into the story. Maybe because it was how I would’ve written it, because it makes perfect narrative sense. Maybe it’s because of the same reasons I always know when I read mysteries… which is, I just know. I don’t know why I do, but I do. Ha. Anyway, it was fun to see Mira piece everything together and coming to the right conclusion in the end.
(4) The characters. Mira is interesting, and I love her relationship with her mother and Richard (her mother’s boyfriend), and I enjoyed reading about her thoughts on her classmates and how she related (or didn’t relate) to them.
(5) Which brings to my favourite thing about this book, which was all the things that Mira learns throughout the story about herself and about the people around her. She observes others and learns from them, and she was brave enough to make amends when she made mistakes in judging people. Another of my favourite scene was during a school assembly when she was watching Sal and realised that she wasn’t the only person who felt that way.
(6) I love the way the writing is fragmented, and each chapter could be read as a small story on its own somehow.
I love this book, so much that I’m thinking that I’ll probably break my Book Diet rules this March when it goes on our Gem of the Month list. Because right now I’m feeling so incredibly lucky and grateful that I happened to have read this. Because I really didn’t put it down once I started (except to play with Saru because she wanted me to play with her, for a while) and once I was done I wanted to start again immediately, or start re-reading A Wrinkle in Time. It’s probably too early for me to say this, but When You Reach Me is very likely to end up as one of my favourite books from this year. (I’d be pretty depressed if I had nothing good to follow up to this, but I’m reading Miyuki Miyabe’s The Book of Heroes next, which I’m really looking forward to!)
“Mom says that each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way.”
“I’ve thought a lot about those veils. I wonder if, every once in a while, someone is born without one. Someone who sees the big stuff all the time. Like maybe you.”
“Sometimes you never feel meaner than the moment you stop being mean. It’s like how turning on a light makes you realize how dark the room had gotten. And the way you usually act, the things you would have normally done, are like these ghosts that everyone can see but pretends not to.”
~ originally posted on blogspot