Thursday, January 28, 2010

When You Reach Me

So if you haven't been living in a literary cave, you know that When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead just won the Newbery award for 2009. I'm really surprised that this won out of all of the other books that were nominated. Not that I've read any of the other books that were nominated for the award, but surely there had to be a selection better than this one. I don't have a lot against this book, but I can't really understand how this book won the Newbery. It's not that the book was necessarily bad, but it's not a book that I'll ever read again, nor one that I think was captivating until the last 30 pages or so when everything started getting tied up, but even then wasn't engaging. So here are my greviances and a summary of the novel:

First off, unless I had known that this book was nominated for the Newbery, I would have never picked it up. I won't beat around the bush, but just say it: the cover sucks. It really sucks. What kid (or adult) is going to pick this book up? Until you finish the book, you have no idea that all the random items on the cover have something to do with the story. Even then, it's still really confusing and pointless. If I were Ms. Stead and this cover was given to me for approval (though I know that authors don't really have a say in their own cover art), I would have used all my power to VETO the crappy art. Definitely a poor choice on the editor's part- I would never have let this cover go through.

Before I get even more into my grievances, I'll tell you what the story is even about so you can judge for yourself whether you want to waste your time reading this. Here's a summary from "Shortly after sixth-grader Miranda and her best friend Sal part ways, for some inexplicable reason her once familiar world turns upside down. Maybe it's because she's caught up in reading A Wrinkle in Time and trying to understand time travel, or perhaps it's because she's been receiving mysterious notes which accurately predict the future. [It] captures the interior monologue and observations of kids who are starting to recognize and negotiate the complexities of friendship and family, class and identity. Set in New York City in 1979, the story takes its cue from beloved Manhattan tales for middle graders like E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy, and Norma Klein's Mom the Wolfman and Me. Like those earlier novels, When You Reach Me will stir the imaginations of young readers curious about day-to-day life in a big city." I agree with the overall summary of the story, but definitely not with the comparisons to Konigsburg, or Fitzhugh. Stead's story isn't even in the same galaxy of quality as these two authors. That last sentence of the review is definitely false.

I didn't like that the story was not really engaging. Like I said before, I didn't get into the story until the last 30 pages, and even then it wasn't very captivating. Having read this once to see what all the hype was about, I will never read this book again. Also, I didn't like the fact that Stead tied in L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time- I felt like this was a complete plug in wanting to try to get the Newbery, and surprise! It worked. However, I'm definitely not convinced that this is Newbery worthy. I question the board's sanity at the time of the selection.