Thursday, March 10, 2011

I almost cried (and I never cry when I read)

I just (as in, a minute ago) finished reading When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, and it so amazed me that I had to crack open this neglected blog and tell you all about it.

The story begins simply enough in the voice of the narrator, Miranda. She's an almost-twelve-year-old girl balancing the sort of things that almost twelve-year-old girls juggle in 1978 America: school, growing up, being a daughter, getting to know the man who will soon be your stepfather -- that kind of thing. However, the story swiftly offers a hint that there's going to be more to Miranda's every day life than what initially appears, and the first clue to this mystery is the fact that Miranda isn't simply writing a record of her days; she's writing a record of her days for somebody.

Sometimes I work on it in my head, Miranda writes, trying to map out the story you asked me to tell, about everything that happened this past fall and winter. It's all still there, like a movie I can watch when I want to. Which is never.

In Miranda's characteristic voice -- sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, and always warm -- the reader is pulled into a story which feels in many ways like a gentle coming-of-age tale, but which provides markers and clues throughout that point to another whole story running under the surface. Also: Madeleine L'Engle references!

Gah! It's hard for me to say much more without giving anything away, so I'll just recommend the story to you and leave you to make your own conclusions. When I finished this books, I closed the cover, made a little gasping sound, and wished I'd written it.

When You Reach Me
Rebecca Steadman