Sunday, October 18, 2009

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

First Impressions.

Second Impressions follow and discussion will include ***spoilers***.

I think that I enjoyed this book even more the second time I read it. The foreshadowing was clearer to me (insert big gasps of surprise, you know, because I, like, knew what to look for having already read the book *pats self on the back*).

The author planted the answers to the laughing man’s identity, how time travel worked, how the characters were so intimately related without the reader being aware of it. It was masterful. Particularly the laughing man calling Miranda “smart kid.” Or how the laughing man turns and runs every time he encounters Marcus. The significance of these things went completely unnoticed by me on the first read. I think because I was so completely under the influence of the growing suspense. On the second read they really came together and I was able to simultaneously get caught up in the story while appreciating the complexity of the writing.

And boy was it was complex. The author weaves several plot lines together, mixes in memories, current events, a mystery, and so on to the point where I think that this could have ended up a confusing mish-mash of what’s the point? or where’s this going? The fact that it does not - the fact that it doesn’t even remotely reach that point - is a sign of superb writing. Stead clearly knew where her story was going and was in control of how to get there. Truthfully, I am somewhat in awe that the author was able to tell such an intricate interwoven tale and keep it so accessible. This one is going to work well for a variety of readers.

I loved Miranda’s voice – I found her compelling, funny, her observations were insightful and seemed believable coming from a 12 year old. I alternately ached for her and was amazed by her and was at all times thinking she was a wonderful, bright, engaging character. There really wasn’t a character I didn’t fall in love with, with the sole exception of Jimmy whose yellow sweat stained shirts and racist attitude did not endear him to me. Regardless, I found the characters well-rounded, interesting, varied, and I connected to them.

I thought the author connected all the dots at the end of the story in a way that respected the reader by not delving into condescending over-explanations.

I would be remiss in not mentioning that I’m indebted to Nina from SLJ'’s Heavy Medal blog. In her discussion she highlighted things that really stuck in my mind as I read the book again. The discussion of the veil popped out at me more, I was better able to understand the time is a “diamond ring” analogy, and I found the overall explanation of time travel satisfactory.

Book Source: Library Copy


LaurieA-B said...

Thank you for sharing your second impressions. When You Reach Me truly rewards the re-reader. I was very surprised by how emotional it was for me, the second time; I don't often cry while reading books, but each of the notes to Miranda brought tears to my eyes.

Patti said...

It really held up on the second reading - it might have been even more enjoyable. Those notes! Emotional indeed! When she pieces it all together, I was all teary too.