When You Reach Me
Miranda’s best friend Sal gets punched in the stomach and doesn’t want to be her friend any more. A crazy old man shows up on the corner, whom the kids all dub “the laughing man,” because he talks and laughs to himself. He also sleeps with his head under a mailbox. Miranda is a voracious reader, but she will only read A Wrinkle in Time. Her mother is a paralegal and is studying to get on to The $20,000 Pyramid. It is 1978.
Stead gives us a realistic, often empathetic, often tunnel-visioned protagonist in Miranda. Her genuine confusion at losing Sal’s friendship showcases both of these features, and she hasn’t come anywhere near to figuring it out when a note mysteriously appears in a library book – very clearly written to her. There will be more notes and new friends, complicated by money and class and boys and even when she discovers that Sal’s assailant, Marcus, isn’t that bad, she’s still worried that being friends with him betrays her history with Sal. And he barely even talks to her any more.
In addition to the solid emotional core of the story, the storytelling is a deft web of threads that overlap and overlay. The mystery of the notes. The mystery of friends. Her mother’s goal to get on to a game show and win in spite of her probably-stupid celebrity partner. The simplicity of the storytelling masks the sophistication.
It is beautiful and sad and heart-warming and wonderful.
I will go and read it again, now.