Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Five Star Review: When You Reach Me

One of the things that being very late in pregnancy does for me is make me entitled. Entitled to more space, to doors being opened for me, for people to move out of the way automatically without me having to ask. (Sadly, these things do not happen very much at all. I don't remember whether they did back when I was pregnant nearly five years ago with my whippersnapper--to be honest I was more concerned with keeping people's roaming hands off my belly then. If you are one of those people who rubs a preggo belly like it's a lucky Buddha, I implore you to please, please not do that.)

Anyway, entitled. And one of those things I feel entitled about right now is inflicting upoin you a new bloggy tradition. This goes hand in hand with general feelings of grandiosity (again, it does seem to have something to do with my size. As I become less mobile, I become more demanding.) With that rather long tangent, I announce the brand new tradition of Sierra's Five Star Review.

The Five Star Review follows the grand tradition of the Google Reader Roundup and will no doubt be not only a success, but world-famous in no time (I think of the GRR as a hot dog stand in its world famousness).

What is the Five Star Review? This is where I go on about how awesome a book I just read is, and why I've given it five out of five stars. I'm too chicken to ever post one or no star reviews and nor would I want to. Books that warrant low stars need no further lambasting, certainly not from me. I think of low rated books as cockroaches slinking away into a dark alley corner. Let's concentrate on the best books out there. And with that, I present the first ever Five Star Review.

Five Star Review of When You Reach Me
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, is a middle grade novel (ages 8-12) in the grand tradition of Madeleine L'Engle. Before I tell you why it deserves five stars, let me first tell you that when I posted about why I don't post about my progress and blamed the post on Kristen Lippert-Martin only to find that I had erred (shockingly) and really it was Roni Loren who'd inspired it, I felt the need to find something else to blame Kristen for. And I found one, oh yes. Kristen posted in the past about reading widely--reading outside your genre and target age. So while I write women's fiction (and indeed, am within that demographic if any publishers wish to send me ARCs, just saying, la la la), I was willing to open my mind to young adult, even middle grade, if need be. There are so many completely fabulous YA books out there, how could I not?

I actually spied When You Reach Me in the B&N children's section while my whippersnapper was trying to negotiate which lame Transformers book he wanted and deftly avoiding more sensible selections like Richard Scarry. When You Reach Me had been thoughtfully set out on a long counter in several neat little piles by some awesome salesperson. The book cover attracted me, as did the Newberry medal sticker (yes, I was a sucker), and so did the title. Then I picked it up and read the back.

THEN I was sucked in.

I mean, the plot of this thing...wow. Very unique. Even Mr. Sierra was highly intrigued, and when I placed the book in my purchase pile, he didn't even bat an eye when I said it was for me. It's that good.

And the book itself is that good. The writing is honest. It's truthful, and it's well constructed. The story is a beautiful time travel story ladden with clues, and I didn't even guess the outcome (although I like to think it's because I'm a busy adult with lots on my mind). But I did guess that everything mentioned was mentioned for a reason, and therefore was able to identify the clues as being clues, but after that it was as though I was twelve years old, which is the age of the heroine, Miranda, in this book.

The end was great. Very satisfying and thought-provoking. The writing was superb. The length was just right--it seemed to cover everything. The beginning was interesting and funny. There were notes of sadness throughout but not enough to make it a difficult or heart wrenching read. Miranda was a great heroine, a strong kid who was still vulnerable to being a kid. She makes mistakes. She does what she knows is the right thing. She moves on. I loved her for it.

I can't recommend this book enough. It's different, it's strong, it's well-written, and I loved it.
If it hadn't won the Newberry, I would be sitting here clamoring for it.

Congrats, Rebecca Stead, for telling a great story--and there's your first ever soon-to-be-world-famous Five Star Review. Also, she has a kick-ass author web site. Check it.

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