When You Reach Me

Book review by
Stephanie Dunnewind, Common Sense Media
When You Reach Me Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Perfectly voiced, mysterious sci-fi coming-of-age tale.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 54 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.


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."


Miranda and Colin kiss several times. Miranda's single mother has a boyfriend but he does not have a key to their apartment.


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.' "


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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRochya H. January 1, 2021

Best. Kid's book. Ever

This book is amazing! I'm a teacher and I reccomend it to soooo many students. It can be a bit scary... but you aren't going to learn to be brave if y... Continue reading
Parent of a 9 and 12-year-old Written byrebecca.camp May 17, 2019

Book Talk by 3rd grade student

I will be telling a book talk, instead of a review.
The book When You Reach Me is about a girl named Miranda. It is a mystery story. It involves time travel, an... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMelanie.luvstoread22 January 7, 2018


This was a REALLY good book! I think i read it when i was 9 but you could really read it at any age it was so good!! I loved how there was a little mystery, a l... Continue reading
Kid, 0 years old December 6, 2020

Wonderful and fun read

it is great and interesting with time travel and plot twists

What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Miranda has enough to worry about: her best friend, who suddenly refuses to hang out together; a boy she might kind of like; the homeless guy on the corner near her New York City apartment; and her single mom, an aspiring game show contestant. But now Miranda is getting creepy hidden notes that tell her to write down the story of what happens to her -- but not inform anyone. It will take a tragedy to show Miranda that neither the notes nor her friendships are quite what she imagined.

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.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what role the game show The $20,000 Pyramid plays in the book. Why did the author choose that game show in particular? What does it mean that chapters have such titles as "Things You Keep Secret"?

  • Miranda says watching after-school TV is "a birthright of every latchkey child." Do you think that is true?

  • Why is A Wrinkle in Time Miranda's favorite book? If kids have read it already, did they like it or When You Reach Me better?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction stories

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