When You Reach Me

Common Sense Media says

Perfectly voiced, mysterious sci-fi coming-of-age tale.




Newbery Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

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

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.

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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 has a 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.  

Families can talk 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

Author:Rebecca Stead
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Wendy Lamb
Publication date:July 14, 2009
Number of pages:200
Read aloud:9
Read alone:9
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

This review of When You Reach Me was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Written byAnonymous July 26, 2011

Really good!

I loved this book!!
Parent of a 11 year old Written byrobinpeggy August 24, 2009

Evocative, stunning writing -- should be a classic

My daughter loved this book so much I read it too. Wonderfully written, suspenseful, mysterious. A terrific heroine who lives in a slightly dangerous urban neighborhood. Her mother particularly came alive for me.
Teen, 13 years old Written byAthena Keene May 6, 2011

LOVED IT (been re-reading it for several years now)

HI again! I loveed this book. I read it in 5th grade and re-read it all the time. It had great messeages and heartfelt down to earth charecters that you cant help but fall in love with!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 10 years old October 29, 2010

good for 9 and up

I LOVED THS BOOK! -It gets your brain thinking. -Miranda is a good role model when she helps people and feels sympathy. -It shows that you should always give people a second chance when making friends. It`s a great book! ... I heard that it is better then harry potter. SO not true. Just saying. But When You Reach Me is still a great book, don`t get me wrong!
What other families should know
Great role models


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