Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me is a gateway book into science fiction for middle school and junior high readers. As Deborah Stevenson states “that [science fiction] element never takes over the story”, which may be helpful for reluctant readers. The focus placed on the day-to-day activities and friendships of the main character, Miranda, allow readers to connect with her character and become involved in the mystery of the story before realizing the clear science fiction aspects present.
Miranda discusses her favorite book, A Wrinkle in Time, on numerous occasions throughout the story, often focusing on the time travel experienced by Meg, a foreshadowing of what will occur in Miranda’s life in future chapters. Consistent references to A Wrinkle in Time throughout When You Reach Me should naturally encourage readers to choose Madeleine L’Engle’s text after finishing the story of Miranda. James Blasingame says “reading A Wrinkle in Time is not necessary in order to enjoy the book, but it does make it more fun” which may be true, as it is easier to follow her discussions with Marcus regarding the time travel and the broccoli patch (most significantly on pages 49-52). However, after reading Miranda’s story it is likely that young minds will be sufficiently primed with the possibility of time travel and other science fiction themes to accurately comprehend and accept the writing of L’Engle, which has a much heavier emphasis on science.
Ultimately, each reader has unique personal experiences that allow different characters, plots, and themes to connect with them. The science fiction genre does not have to be so strongly based on science, or only involve robots and aliens, which may be the perception of younger readers. Fiction options, such as When You Reach Me, will allow readers a peek into the science fiction world, which can open an entirely new area of creativity for middle school and junior high readers.
Blasingame, J. (2011). “When you reach me” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(6), 461, 464. Accessed August 30, 2011 through Wilson Web.
Stevenson, D. (2009). “When you reach me” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. 63(1). Accessed August 30, 2011 through Wilson Web.