Book Review: When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Middle grade mystery, sci-fi

When You Reach Me

When she got the first note, Miranda was able to convince herself it was just trash–it wasn’t necessarily meant for her and didn’t mean anything. The second one couldn’t so easily be dismissed. Then she begins to unravel a mystery that involves her once-best friend, the crazy man on the corner, and a break-in where nothing was stolen. Can Miranda put the pieces together in time to prevent a death?

I am so glad I decided to see what this book is all about. Though it’s for a younger audience, it intrigued me when I saw it on a fellow blogger’s Top Ten Tuesday list a few weeks back. It was such a great read! I liked the book’s feel of living in a big city in the 70s, which was based on the author’s own childhood. The mystery was seriously engaging, and even the chapter titles were wonderfully themed!

The chapters are mostly short, some as short as 2 pages (on my Kindle, so probably less in a book format), which kept the story moving, even when a lot of the eralier chapters covered backstory that brought the reader up to date on the “present time.” Also, the main character’s mom is practicing to be on the game show The $10,000 Pyramid, and most of the chapter titles are themed around that (ex. “Things That Burn”), which is also explained well enough in the story that younger readers, who wouldn’t know the show at all, will understand it too.

I had my theories about who wrote the notes, going back and forth between 2 people before deciding on one. When the big reveal happened, though I suspected most of what was revealed, it still left my breathless for a moment. It was so well done!

I will say that I think Sal was maybe a bit more mature in his thoughts and decisions about friendship that makes much sense for a boy his age, but other than that, I loved everything about this book. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a good mystery, with some time travel thrown in. It is middle grade fiction, but I don’t think it the younger audience makes the story any less readable for adults.

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Book Review: Holes

Finished Reading: Holes
by Louis Sachar

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Middle grade fiction

Holes

This is the story about 2 curses that come together in a place called Camp Green Lake, where there is no lake. Teenage boys are sent there for rehabilitation in the form of digging a hole the depth and width of their shovel every day. The camp’s newest inmate, Stanley Yelnats, quickly realizes there’s more to the hole-digging than character-building, but can he dig up the truth?

I like this book so much. I remember watching this movie about a year after it first came out, going into it without any clue what it was about. I was an adult, so not exactly the age group that the book was intended for, but I’ve never had a problem watching or reading things for a younger audience. I enjoyed the movie, and still do to this day. A few years after watching the movie, I found the book at a garage sale or thrift store or something like that, and picked it up. I’ve read it a few times, so this was a re-read, at least 10 years since the previous times I read it.

The way the author brought basically three different stories together, and in a really interesting and even believable way is so fun to follow along with. This book takes the idea of coincidence in storytelling (which is normally better to avoid) and embraces it to the point of being so well connected, you’re excited to see how the coincidences come together.

The kids are just trying to get by in conditions that definitely make it clear that the justice system has failed them, but they still have heart. The adults at the camp are apparently all terrible people, right down to the counselors who aren’t in the story much, which I think is a little unrealistic.

Since I saw the movie before reading the book, and have watched the movie several times now, of course I pictured the characters as they were portrayed in the movie, but I like the casting, so this isn’t a problem for me. There are some differences in the movie, a few things added to the movie, and of course some extra details removed, but overall, it is incredibly similar. My biggest issue with the book is that it is wrapped up awkwardly. There’s not a lot of closure. The movie did this better (even if a slight bit less realistically).

Overall, Holes is a fun, edgy book for kids approximately 8-12 years of age, but really can be appreciated by older people as well. The culmination of the different storylines in the latter half of the book is a lot of fun to discover, and I recommend it for all.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!