Cassy's Reviews > When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
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Mar 07, 2011

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bookshelves: 2011, fiction-children, physical-own, region-america-canada, event-met-author, lawyers-turned-authors
Read from March 24 to 26, 2011

I almost did not read this book. I knew it was targeted for a younger audience, but I didn’t realize just how young. I kept vainly searching for it in the teenagers’ section (where I was already a bit embarrassed to be spotted). When I realized I would have to go inside the children’s section at B&N, I wavered. The little chairs. The colored foam titles on the floor. The stuffed animals. It’s all cute, but could one of those books satisfy me?

It probably deserves more than three stars. But it is hard for me to judge at twenty five years old. I am not an elementary school teacher, a children’s librarian, or a mother. My days of baby-sitting for $6 an hour are long gone. I don’t know how kids would react. At eight, I might have given it five stars and then complained to my mom that the rating system needed to be changed because this book deserved at least sixteen stars.

As an adult, I am not jumping up and down, but I enjoyed it. It is charming. The solution to the puzzle was satisfying and only modestly predictable. And I was surprised to glimpse some deeper and gritty topics: rehabilitation in prisons, homeless people, racism, single mothers, dead-end jobs. I didn’t expect to encounter these in a children’s book and they were artfully applied. Indeed, during the event, Rebecca spoke about how she didn’t think kids needed to be so protected.

Rebecca also spoke about the inspiration for the book. You’d think A Wrinkle in Time was the starting point. Wrong! The idea began as she read a New York Times article about a guy walking around Denver, Colorado with amnesia. When he asked for help, everyone avoided the “crazy” man. After reaching a hospital and being put under hypnosis, he remembered exactly two things about himself: (1) he was married to Penny and (2) they had two daughters who had both died in a car accident. When they finally identified this man, he had a fiancé named Penny and no children. Creepy!

She did address the allusions to A Wrinkle in Time. She included these for two reasons. She wanted to describe how books can feel so personal. How they can make a reader feel territorial. I am guilty of this. I like to pretend such-and-such book was written for my eyes only. I will only reluctantly loan or even mention some books to others. She also wanted to warn readers that there would be difficult and potentially technical topics coming ahead. (The third reason I discern must have been too obvious for her to mention or considered part of the second reason: it served as a necessary device for explaining time-travel.)

Rebecca started out as a criminal defense attorney, because it was a clearer path than writing. She spoke about how she kept waiting for someone to send her a “Harry Potter letter”. You will remember when Harry receives notice that he is a wizard and has been accepted into Hogwarts. How do you decide you want to become a writer? It is impractical! Self-doubt and/or egotism are occupational hazards! She kept waiting for someone to tell her that she was talented enough and had “permission” to pursue writing. This spoke to me. I have been wondering lately about a letter to direct my life. Did it get lost in the mail? Am I going to have to take a risk without it? Ekk…
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Eeboo This book is really good! It's not childish at all!

Cassy Yeah, I was surprised by the level of sophistication. Rebecca really took on some tough topics for children.

Heather Hocking For what it's worth, I am 34 years old and I get a lot of books from the children's section. Some of them are just as amazing and enjoyable as adult fiction. Embrace your inner child. :)

Grace K. This book isnt childish at all. Its easyto read though

Andrew P I think that the end really was one of the best parts of this book because it really pieced together all the strange events that had happened and finally explained them. It was a great read.

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