Sunday 11 December 2016

Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Andersen Press, €8.99, Paperback

Published 29/01/2011 | 05:00

This is one of the most impressive children's books I've read in a long time. Winner of the Newbery Medal and several other prestigious literary awards, it's set in Stead's native New York and has at its heart a profound mystery.

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Eleven-year-old Miranda is a 'latch-key child' and has always felt different. When her best friend, Sal, gets randomly punched on the street by a young boy from their school, Sal feels humiliated and shuts Miranda out of his life, leaving her distraught and lonely. Meanwhile strange things keep happening to her both at home and at school -- someone uses the hidden emergency key to steal an old pair of shoes from her apartment, and cryptic notes begin to appear out of the blue in pockets and bags. "I am coming to save your friend's life," the first one reads, "and my own".

The plot is cleverly constructed and a real page turner. Stead (above) leaves the reader desperate to learn the truth about the notes and the identity of their writer, and weaves in tantalising hints about metaphysics and time travel.

But its real triumph is the writing, delicate yet robust, full of insight, compassion and wisdom. Stead manages to describe complex emotions in a fresh and original manner. "Sometimes you never feel meaner than the moment you stop being mean... And the way you normally act, the things you would have normally done, are like these ghosts that everyone can see but pretends not to."

Don't miss it. Recommended for every reader of ten plus.

Sarah Webb is a writer for children and adults. Ask Amy Green: Party Drama-rama will be published in May.

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