‘Our apartment door was unlocked when I got home from school that Friday, which was strange.’ Nothing appears to have been stolen from 12-year-old Miranda’s home but she subsequently discovers a cryptic note, informing her that someone she loves is in mortal danger. In order to avoid catastrophe, Miranda must turn detective cum scientist and challenge her own received notions of the nature of time. A 2010 Newbery medal winner, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is an inventive time travel mystery set in 1970’s New York, ideal for canny young sleuths in search of an invigorating read.
A series of interlocking puzzles, this is what we know:
An eccentric gentleman has taken to sleeping outside Miranda’s apartment building with his head under the mailbox. Often to be found shouting unfathomable lines such as “What’s the burn scale?” he is certainly peculiar, but Miranda is much more unsettled by a random incident on the street. Best buddy, Sal, is attacked by a stranger, a bloody assault that leads, inexplicably, to the friends’ estrangement.
And then there are the notes, the first shocking message followed by others that reveal an uncanny knowledge of Miranda’s life and lead her to believe that only she can avert an impending death.
Readers should take note of a subsequent debate Miranda has with a key character on the subject of time travel. Claiming that common sense dictates it’s an impossibility, Miranda is swiftly rebutted.
‘Einstein says common sense is just habit of thought. It’s how we’re used to thinking about things but a lot of the time it just gets in the way.’
Be aware that even the most casual detail may be of vital significance in this sci-fi tale with a difference, a novel that also encompasses the emotional trials of pre-adolescence and themes of friendship, independence and redemption. A welcome re-release of a cracking read.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is published by Anderson Press, 208 pages.