A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The book makes it clear that racism is not OK, and shows kids that it’s never a good idea to make assumptions about anyone, regardless of their circumstances. Miranda and her mom are imperfect characters, but they have a close, loving relationship. Miranda realizes that even though Julia has money, that doesn't mean she has a better life or gets more attention from her parents.
Positive Role Models
Miranda is mostly a positive role model, even though she isn't perfect. As a latchkey kid who is home alone after school, she's responsible for taking care of herself. She befriends an unpopular girl and is best friends with a boy, without any dating connotations. On the negative side, she's sometimes snotty to her mother. One day she goes to her friend's house without telling her mom, making her mother cry from worry. She also watches a fair amount of television.
Violence & Scariness
Miranda is fearful of walking home alone past a group of boys who call out to her and past the homeless man who sleeps under the mailboxes. A boy slams another boy against a car and hits him. Every time the boy tries to get up, the other kid pushes him down and hits him again. A boy punches Sal in the stomach, then hits him across the face; Sal's nose bleeds. Sal is almost hit by a truck; instead, the laughing man is killed. After the accident, Belle leads Miranda past "a heap of something awful in the street."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Miranda and Colin kiss several times. Miranda's single mother has a boyfriend but he does not have a key to their apartment.
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Very mild language, such as "idiot", "shut up," and "that's bull." Miranda says something is a "whole different bucket of poop," as her Mom likes to say, "except she doesn't use the word 'poop.' "
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Products & Purchases
A few products or companies are mentioned by name, including McDonald's and Blow Pops. A now-defunct game show, The $20,000 Pyramid, plays a key role in the plot.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know this time-traveler novel features the death of a man who is hit by a truck in front of the main character. It also addresses a girl's fear of a homeless man near her New York City apartment and touches on racism. The main character's friend is punched in the stomach by another boy for no apparent reason. Readers will get more out of the book if they've also read A Wrinkle in Time, which is referenced frequently as Miranda's favorite book.
Is It Any Good?
WHEN YOU REACH ME won the 2010 Newbery Medal, and offers an exciting, twisty plot that plays with the time-space continuum. It's hard to call it sci-fi, however, since the main focus is Miranda's perfectly voiced, first-person account of negotiating friendships and family dynamics on the cusp of adolescence. Young readers will relate to Miranda's gradual, sometimes painful self-awareness, though they might find its 1979 setting quaint as characters actually talk to each other (rather than text or IM).
With its mystery hook, this is one of those well-written books that should appeal to both librarians AND kids.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.