It's 1978 and twelve year old Miranda, while helping her mother prepare for a stint on The $20,000 Pyramid, is thinking of all the events that happened the previous fall. If it was up to her, she'd probably not think about them. But then there are the notes asking her to do just that, to write down everything that happened last fall. Notes telling her that someone is coming to save both a friend and their own lives. Notes from a time traveler.When You Reach Me
is a 2009 novel by Rebecca Stead with allusions to A Wrinkle in Time
. Despite its time traveling elements and mystery, the book is at heart a Coming of Age
novel that subtly deals with social issues, racism, and the quiet dangers of late seventies New York. It won numerous awards, including the Newbery Medal
This story provides examples of:
- Bittersweet Ending: Even Miranda understands the terrible burden Marcus will feel when he reads her letter and learns that he watched his own death making a tragedy even worse for him.
- Can't Take Anything With You: One of the later notes hints at this, saying "A man can only hold so much paper in his mouth."
- Chekhov's Gunman: The laughing man and his inexplicable actions suddenly make sense when you find out that he was Marcus, traveling back in time from the future in order to save Sal's life.
- Child Prodigy: Marcus. He reads Einstein's General relativity for fun at age 11. He also debated temporal paradoxes from the book A Wrinkle in Time with his second grade teacher.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Marcus on occasion. He doesn't always notice people around him or where he is.
- Crazy Homeless People: The Laughing Man, though how much is an act and how much is real is in question. This makes a nice Shout-Out to A Wrinkle in Time, where Mrs. Whatsit is described as looking, in day-to-day life, like a homeless tramp.
- Death by Newbery Medal
- Disappeared Dad
- First Kiss: Knock, knock. Oh, it's you. Kiss.
- Fridge Logic: an In-Universe example, discussed in regards to A Wrinkle in Time. The three Mrs. W's promise Meg and the boys that they should be back "five minutes before you left." But as Marcus points out, if this is true then Meg should have seen herself returning, because Meg&co. landed in the garden, which in plain sight from wall, where they left. Marcus is arguing a Stable Time Loop is in effect, while Miranda (very defensive of her favorite author) maintains that the future hadn't happened yet, so of course they wouldn't be seen.
- There is a simpler explanation, which no one In-Universe notices: Mrs. Whatsit says they'll be back five minutes before they left, unless "something goes terribly wrong." And something does indeed go terribly wrong.
- Idiosyncratic Chapter Naming: Most chapters are references to the $20,000 Pyramid with "Things that.." or "...Things". The few chapters that aren't references deal with the notes.
- Informed Real Life Fame: In an in-universe example, Miranda experiences this at work while watching a taping of the $20,000 Pyramid. ("The celebrities take the stage. I've never heard of either one of them.")
- I Just Want to Have Friends: Sal was a Tybe B. Ironically, he gave up his one friendship in order to get more friends.
- I Hate Past Me
- OOC Is Serious Business: Wheelie, the school secretary knows all of the students, what class they are in, and even who is absent. But when the police come looking for Marcus, Miranda realizes just how bad the situation is when Wheelie asks them to repeat his name and ask what grade he is in.
- Potty Emergency: Alice Evans. She waits too long to ask to go to the point she does the Potty Dance. Implied that she has encountered Potty Failure as she is the only sixth grader with a change of clothes at school. Classmates love to keep her talking with them when she has to go just to watch her suffer.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong or Stable Time Loop: It all depends on how you believe the "Save your friend's life and my own" statement was fulfilled.
- Two Girls and a Guy: Miranda, Annemarie, Colin. Is there a Love Triangle? In Miranda's mind, yes. In reality, who knows?
- Unfortunate Names: Miranda hates that she was named after a criminal. Her mother was in law school in 1967, when Miranda was born.
- Unnamed Parent: Miranda's mother. Surprising as two close friends of the mother are also frequent characters.