When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead
Random House, 2009. 197 pgs. Juvenile fiction.
Considerable Newbery talk is swirling around When You Reach Me, and rightly so as it combines the best aspects of two previous winners--Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, and Lynne Rae Perkins' Criss Cross--to create a splendid story in its own right. The narrative takes the form of a letter Miranda, the protagonist, writes to an unknown correspondent who seems to be sending her messages from the future, one of which asks her to write the letter. If that seems circular it is meant to be as the story spins on the question of time travel, but it is also firmly grounded in the delights and despairs of pre-teen life in 70s New York. As Miranda's mother frantically trains to make big bucks on the $20,000 Pyramid, Miranda is trying to figure out why her best friend Sal stopped talking to her after he got punched out for no apparent reason by Marcus, a kid neither of them knew, and how to navigate the perilous waters of being friends with Annemarie but not with Julie. When You Reach Me has everything: mystery, suspense, expansive scientific thinking, the perils and joys of familial and friendly relationships, and the question of how Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which got Meg and Charles Wallace back into the garden five minutes before they left without their being able to see themselves leaving. A real crackerjack of a book. I loved it.