Tag Archives: Madeleine L’Engle

When You Reach Me

Author: Rebecca Stead

My rating: 5 of 5

Growing up, Miranda’s life has been pretty normal. Her childish yet bright single mother falling in love, wavering over whether to give Richard (Mr. Perfect) a key to their New York apartment, getting all excited over entering a TV game show, making plans for what to do with the winnings before she ever gets on the show. Her best friend Sal who has always been there for her, growing up together, like two sides of the same coin. But her sixth grade year, Miranda’s life begins to fall apart. Sal stops talking to her for no obvious reason, and suddenly nothing seems certain anymore. And then she starts getting these messages, small notes giving her instructions, telling her things about the future that no one should have known, claiming that the writer has come back in time to prevent something awful–and that her following these instructions is vital to this happening.

When You Reach Me is one of those unexpected, brilliant finds that just go to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Although the whole Newbery Award should have probably been a good indicator of that. It’s like this fabulous mashup of the things I love best of the writings of Madeleine L’Engle (no surprise, since she’s clearly an influencer of Stead’s writing), E. L. Konigsburg, and Frank Cottrell Boyce. The writing itself is just really good, for one, with layers of depth in the characters and little observations of the everyday thrown into the mix and with a lot of character development and growth and self-realization over the course of the story. That in itself would make for a great story, but then you throw in all the time-travel stuff and the mystery surrounding that, and the book goes to a whole new level in my mind. I liked that attention was given to the effects of time travel, but essentially zero mention was made of the actual mechanics; it wouldn’t work in every situation, but for this story, it was the best possible way to handle the topic. The inclusion of all the references to A Wrinkle in Time really helped to set the stage and explain the time travel better, so that was nicely done as well. Oh, and this is an actual instance of first-person, present-tense that actually works; it feels like reading a letter for the most part, maybe that letter Miranda was supposed to write. Recommended particularly for middle-grade readers, but this is one of those stories that surpasses its recommended grade range, so if you like the above authors’ works and are interested in time travel-related stories, When You Reach Me may be worth trying.

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Deep Wizardry

Author: Diane Duanedeep wizardry

Young Wizards, vol. 2

My rating: 5 of 5

Young wizards and best friends Kit and Nita are looking forward to a pleasant vacation at the ocean after their huge ordeal fighting back the forces of darkness and entropy to save their world. But it looks like they’re finding that responsibility begets greater responsibility as they find themselves once again dragged into some great wizardry with the safety of any number of people–and other beings–in the balance. Only this time, the action is all happening in the ocean itself, as the two friends encounter the great wizards of the sea–whales, dolphins, and the like–and discover entirely new ways to do wizardry. But neither of them could have truly calculated just how much this task would demand of them.

Deep Wizardry was an incredible follow-up to Duane’s So You Want to Be a WizardIt occupies a sweet spot just on the verge between children’s fiction and YA, without really being either exactly. In that regard, I think it reminds me a lot of Diana Wynne Jones’ and Madeleine L’Engle’s writing–stylistically and thematically as well. The writing is excellent, and the pacing–while slower than many books I’ve read–has a steady deliberateness that works really well for this particular story. The characters are great, and the way in which the author handles the very real struggles they deal with is really quite excellently done. This book is different from a lot of books in that it addresses themes such as responsibility, sacrifice, and redemption; it’s very moving and also unique enough to be both a difficult read and an incredible one. Highly recommended.

 

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