These were Great Middle Grade Reads books of the month for June, and July/August. The first was nominated as a potential ‘future classic’, and which it may be, but I’m not sure, and the second was nominated as a series read… and will doubtless have me reading more.
When You Reach Me
Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.
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, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid 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 Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:
I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. 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.
I found this very atmospheric as it seemed to be set in upper East side, NYC, where I have friends. It certainly seemed to be that neighbourhood, although I’ve not been there for years. Miranda is hooked in a book, which seemed odd at first, since unlike you and me, she went everywhere with it. Okay, I have done that on a first read, but rarely on a rereading. The third time we were told something about the book, I went – hang on, I recognise that. And I was right. It’s a famous MG book involving time travel. And the author has very skillfully woven her own time travel book around it, and the mysterious strangers in Miranda’s life.
I thought it was very well written, and in keeping with the characters, with enough tension to keep you guessing. Although some of the GMGR readers felt the identity of the stranger was obvious, I didn’t get it till near the end. The pace was good, it kept me interested, and I was glad I’d read it!
A fascinating tale in which threads slowly untangle, beautifully set in a place that I think I know, although I’ve never lived there, only visited.
Evil necromancer DomDaniel is plotting his comeback. Having ‘executed’ the most daringly ruthless part of his plan, one obstacle remains. But this obstacle, although small, is proving to be a challenge, and DomDaniel is not fond of challenges he hasn’t created personally.
The blurb is a little scant, and gives no indication, really, of the main protagonists and the wondrous world they inhabit. We follow the Heap family from their comfortable if cramped life in the bowels of the castle under the benevolent rule of the High Extraordinary Wizard, into exile as they fight for their lives once the castle has been taken over by the evil DomDaniel mentioned in the blurb. This is a book for everyone who loves worlds built in detail, and described with flowing and occasional lurid prose. There are all sorts of strange animals living in the forest and the marsh (I’m particularly fond of marshes), and I really loved the delicious way Angie Sage brought them to life. Senses are assaulted in all directions! I was almost put off near the end when something happened I thought was a bit of a trope, but oh, how it soared, and took me off into another bout of delighting in the description and the vivid action.
I gave it four stars on Goodreads, but I suspect I was being a little stingy, probably because the identity of Child 412 was never in doubt. But I find I warm towards some books a little while after I read them – this is one of them. Must add the next to my reading list… oh dear.
Highly enjoyable and beautifully written book, which deserves the tag ‘what to read after Harry Potter’. Almost tactile in the descriptions.
4 thoughts on “Book Reviews | When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead and Magyk by Angie Sage”
Thanks for reviewing these, Jemima. You give me a great sense of the books, and I’m adding these to the list I am keeping for my young friends.
That’s good to hear, Noelle.
I loved When You Reach Me. I didn’t get it till very late either!
I’m glad it’s not just me!
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