Monday, May 28, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead--and a giveaway!

I've been on a reading spree, trying to prepare for some of the panels I'm doing when I'm in NY next week (which, btw, if you're in the area and want to stop by, you can find my schedule HERE). So I actually have an MMGM for you guys--for a book I've been meaning to read for AGES. WHEN YOU REACH ME, by Rebecca Stead.

Here's how the publisher describes it:

This remarkable novel holds a fantastic puzzle at its heart.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda's mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she's too late.

Winner of the 2010 Newbery Medal
Winner of the 2010 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction & Poetry
2009 Parents' Choice Gold Award winner

I'm sure all those shiny awards do a far better job of recommending this book than I'm going to--clearly lots and lots of people agree with me about its general amazingness. Which is of course why I'd bought myself a copy and added it to my TBR pile, where it has sat gathering dust for at least a year. (#Shannonfail)

The main reason for that was simply time. It's been a crazy hectic year.

I will, however, admit that I'm sometimes a wee bit reluctant to read Newbery winners--for two reasons:
  • a large percentage of them tend to be quite sad and often contain lots of pets (or friends, or family members) dying. Not that I don't love a book that makes me feel--but sometimes it's hard not to think: but I don't wanna cry today.
  • the writing is--of course--top-notch and therefore makes me feel like the resident Queen of Hacksville, which is NOT necessarily the best frame of mind to be in whilst drafting books of my own
BUT, when I found out I was going to be on a panel with the amazing Rebecca Stead I decided it was high time I dig out my copy and be one of the last people to discover how great WHEN YOU REACH ME is for myself. And yet even going in with incredibly high expectations (and a handy box of tissues for the sad scenes I was sure were inevitable) I was still completely blown away by how much I enjoyed it.

The writing--as expected--was completely amazing. I LOVED her use of details. How she focused on the small moments and feelings and thoughts and stayed so true to how kids see the world. The voice was so real and honest--but also incredibly unique. There are very few books that pull off addressing an unspecified "you" without feeling gimmicky or distracting. But the device works perfectly in this book, and adds such an interesting element of mystery, making the reader desperate to know who "you" is.

Bonus: IT DIDN'T MAKE ME CRY!!!! There was no adorable puppy that saved a main character's life and then got bit by a raccoon and had to be taken out back and bludgeoned to death to save it from rabies (or any of the other gut-wrenching tropes that break my heart in Newbery books). It even made me smile!

Basically, it was refreshingly unexpected. Special and honest and real and sweet--and while the writing did of course make me wonder why I don't just throw my laptop off a bridge and give up now, I also thoroughly enjoyed every word and I have a feeling you guys will do the same.

Which is why I'm giving away a copy to one lucky winner.

If you would like to enter, leave a comment on this post by 11:59 pm pacific time on Friday June 1st. I'll draw one random winner and post their names on Saturday, June 2nd.* International entries welcome.

(And sorry, I won't be able to email the winners to let them know they won. Not only do I not have time to do that anymore, but I'll be out of town for BEA that week and with limited access to internet. So I *highly* recommend you follow my blog in some way/form so that you won't miss the "winners" post and lose your prize--but its up to you! That's not a requirement!)

For more awesome middle grade recommendations, check out these other MMGMs floating around the blogosphere.*
- The amazing Myrna Foster is featuring KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES (**OMG, THE FIRST MMGM FOR MY BOOK!!! FLAILS**) with an AMAZING giveaway (seriously, I wish I could win!) Click HERE for all the details on that. (EEP!)
- The Mundie Moms are now part of the MMGM fun (eee!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome! 
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week!    
 Karen Yingling also always has some awesome MMGM recommendations for you. Click HERE to which ones she picked this time!    
- Author Claire Legrand joins the MMGM fun with an awesome new series called Middle Grade Memories. Click HERE to see author Adam-Troy Castro discuss a book he loved growing up--with a GIVEAWAY! 
- Barbara Watson has WAR AND WATERMELON on her mind! Click HERE to see why. 
- Brennan and Meyrick Murphy are spotlighting WE WERE HEROES: THE JOURNAL OF SCOTT PENDLETON COLLINS. Click HERE to learn more about it..  
- Michelle Isenhoff is cheering for THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE. Click HERE to see why she loves it!
- Laurisa Reyes has an interview with author Alison Jackson--plus a GIVEAWAY! Click HERE for details 
- Natalie Lorenzi is interviewing author Wendy Shang. Click HERE for all the fun!    
- Gina Carey is sweet for CLARA LEE AND THE APPLE PIE DREAM. Click HERE to see why she thinks you'll be, too.  
- Dorine White is enchanted by THE SERPENT'S SHADOW. Click HERE to see what she loved.

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so I see it)

NOTE: I used to not have a cut-off time for adding links to the post, but with how insane my schedule is right now, if you don't email me by Sunday evening (usually around 11pm PST is when I put the links together) I can't guarantee I'll have a chance to add you. BUT, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you!

*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen posts ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me ahead of time.


  1. I love this book! I already own a copy so I'll let someone else win. :)

    And I also loved that it didn't make me cry and that no pets were harmed in the making of the book!

  2. I really enjoyed this book - I already own it too so will also let somebody else win! But I wanted to add how clever it was and how much I enjoyed the voice.

  3. I'm not sure I care for the cover that much, but other than that: a MG novel set in NYC? Yes, please. Sounds awesome.

  4. I loved this, but will let someone else win since I read it.

  5. I, too, loved this one and own it, so make sure someone else wins it.

  6. I'm another one not entering! but just want to say I LOVED this book! Really want to reread but also do not like being reminded what a hack I am as I am writing!

  7. I loved this book too! I also already own a copy, but just wanted to mention how amazing I thought it was. So clever and when all the threads of the story come together - wow! I love how it challenges the reader to think and be involved, and I think it's the sort of book that truly recognizes the brilliance and imagination of kids. Thanks too for all the great MMGM links :)

  8. I love this book so much! The writing, the story... the everything. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! And I'm JEALOUS that you get to be on a panel with Rebecca Stead!!!

  9. I've heard so many wonderful things about this book. I'd love to win a copy! Thanks for the opportunity :)

  10. Wow. This sounds like a great book and I haven't read it, so please enter me in the contest. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  11. refreshingly unexpected is such a great way to describe this book!! i adored it as well.

    i have a copy, so don't add me to the running. hope it goes to a lucky person who hasn't read it yet!

  12. I love this book!! And I would also love to own a copy! :D

  13. +JMJ+

    Two friends of mine who are big readers but kind of stay away from Middle Grade (Ridiculous, I know!) surprised me by loving this book and recommending it to me. They said I'd love it because it has time travel, which I believe in with all my heart, and references to Madeleine L'Engle, one of my favourite writers ever. And now that you've assured us that there are no faithful dogs bitten by rabid racoons and bludgeoned to death, I know it is totally fabulous.

    Please enter me in your giveaway, Sharon! As Commenter #13 I'm feeling lucky! ;-)

  14. Wow. Sounds like an amazing book. Thanks, Shannon.

  15. I would LOVE to win a copy of this book. I've heard so many people rave about it.

    I am also reluctant to read Newberry winners for the same reasons you are. I hate it when they kill animals!!

    Good luck on your workshop. I wish I could be there. I know you'll be fabulous.

  16. I've been looking at this book for a while, but just haven't picked it up yet. With your recommendation, I guess I'll have to add it to my list.

  17. I also tend to not read the winners. Much too sad for me. But, if you say it's worth it, then I'll definitely check it out!!

  18. I would love to read this book. It sounds very good. Please enter me in contest.

  19. Oh! I loved this one! And I've come to feel the same way about Newbery winners, but I read this one before it won.

  20. I just read this literally three weeks ago, because a couple of my students were reading it and told me it was good. And it was, for all the reasons you mentioned.

  21. What I really loved about this book is the parallels I found with A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY. Enjoy your panel. What a wonderful experience!

  22. I keep hearing such amaaazing things about this one, I SO want want want it.
    Thanks a ton for the giveaway as usual, Shannon :)

  23. I LOVED this book and can't wait for her new one to come out. No need to enter me in the drawing, I already have a copy.

  24. I would love to read this. Thanks for the giveaway.

  25. Thanks for the giveaway! This was a great book and would be a great addition to the classroom library! Have fun on your panel!

  26. Great review, Shannon. Please don't enter me in the draw though. I've read this one!

  27. Sounds like a great book, I would love to enter, thank you.

  28. I just read this one over the weekend. Loved it! I'll be featuring it on MMGM in a few weeks, too. :) So don't enter me.

  29. I feel you and I have remarkably similar TBR piles/lists. (At least, I like to think so!) This one's on the list, but still haven't gotten around to checking it out yet.

    THanks so much for offering all these giveaways, Shannon. It's super kind of you!

  30. Wow, this sounds like a good book. I'm wondering why I haven't read it yet? Just added it to my TBR book list. The cover reminds me of those maps you find that have an arrow saying YOU ARE HERE.

  31. I haven't read any Rebecca Stead, and I think that's a darn shame!


Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Friendly debate is fine, but always be kind to each other). <3