This book is really aimed at younger readers, but I had heard so much about it I decided to give it a try and see what all the fuss was. Turns out it's good enough for adults to enjoy too.
When You Reach Me tells the story of Miranda, a sixth grade girl living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the late seventies. Her life is fairly normal - her mother hates her paralegal job and hopes to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid
, her best friend Sal lives in the apartment below her, and her biggest problems in the world are what to build for her class's Main Street diorama and how to best avoid the crazy rambling guy on the corner. But then she starts getting weird notes written on scraps of paper that predict events in the future and give rise to a fantastic mystery about the possibility of time travel.
It's difficult to write about time travel in a way that a young audience will understand and enjoy, but Stead does it very well. The timeline of the book progresses in such a way that we have to solve the puzzle along with Miranda, and I was riveted the whole time and didn't really figure it out until near the end. It was great watching all the pieces fall into place. Stead avoids falling into time travel paradoxes and pitfalls that many authors do (in fact, one character points out a "mistake" in A Wrinkle in Time, but it's all in good fun - it's clear the book is a bit of an homage to Madeline L'Engle's work).
All in all, it's just a really excellent bit of light reading that can be enjoyed at any age. It's brief enough to read in one sitting, but you'll be thinking about the puzzle long after.