When You Reach Me

By: 

Rebecca Stead

Number of Pages: 

199

Minimum grade level: 

5th

It’s the late '70s in New York City, and Miranda and her best friend, Sal, have stopped hanging out together. Sal got punched in the face by another kid, and after that, he suddenly stopped talking to Miranda. Losing Sal means that Miranda has to walk home alone past the crazy guy on the corner – the guy who shakes his fist at the sky and laughs these loud, crazy laughs and sleeps with his head under the mailbox. She finds new friends – a boy who likes to ride skateboards and a girl who has also broken up with her best friend. But while all this is happening, some really strange things are going on, too. Like the book, A Wrinkle in Time, that Miranda is obsessed with and reads over and over – and how the plot almost seems to become a part of her real life. And then she starts receiving these mysterious notes, letters that are always kind of strange and left in unexpected places. They say things like, “You will want proof. 3 p.m. today: Colin’s knapsack.” And that message predicts exactly what ends up happening that day – the proof is found in Colin’s knapsack, at three o'clock on the dot. Miranda has no idea who is writing the notes or where they’re coming from – but whoever it is seems to know personal things about Miranda that no one could know, and even things that happen in the future.

This amazing story is part mystery, part fantasy, and even part historical fiction. This is the kind of book you’ll think about for days after you finish it, and you’ll probably end up reading it all over again. And be sure to look closely at the cover – therein lie the clues.

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. When Miranda’s best friend Sal stops talking to her, Miranda is forced to find new friends. What determines if someone is your best friend? If you have a lot of friends, is one always the ‘best’ friend?
  2. Why do Miranda and her friends like working at the sandwich shop, even though they aren’t getting paid?
  3. How soon did you figure out who was sending Miranda the mysterious notes? What was the clue that tipped you off?
  4. Imagine you could time travel to the future or the past, and talk to your younger or older self. Which direction would you go, and what messages would you give yourself?

If you liked this book, try

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  • A Girl Called Boy by Belinda Hurmence
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Caroline Funke
  • Changeling by Delia Sherman
  • London Calling by Edward Bloor
  • Nick of Time by Ted Bell

Activities

Learn what inspired the author to write her award-winning book in this article inSchool Library Journal.

Here’s a video interview with the book’s author, talking about her book and how she writes.

Snacks

Get a good loaf of bread and lots of sandwich fixings, and make some sandwiches!