“Common Sense is just a name for the way we’re used to thinking.” (When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead)
Real people read books. When we read them we talk about them with our friends, we recommend them, we think about them, question them, and sometimes they settle themselves into the back of our minds only to resurface as an integral piece of a puzzle months or years later. This being true, why don’t more realistic characters read books within their own story? The only other time (besides in The Confessions) that I have ever seen a character reading and thinking about a specific book has been if the author wants to refer to a previous book as a symbol in their own work. Rebecca Stead takes brilliant and absolutely basic step when she has Mira, her main character, read, love and question A Winkle in Time– just as anyone else might do. This gives her story a sense of super-realism, which is interwoven with a gorgeously subtle sci-fi/fantasy twist.
I was absolutely stunned by When You Reach Me. I sat down to start it and only got up a few hours later when I had finished. It is compelling and intriguing without that ever-popular sense of suspenseful compulsion we see in so many children’s and young adult books these days. I would recommend it to any middle-schooler I meet, and especially to any adult with even a mild penchant for children’s books.
Beverage: To celebrate the book’s quirky sense of realism I would try an every day tea, such as a jasmine or earl grey, iced with the addition of tapioca – commonly known as boba or bubble tea.
Reminds me… of St. Augustine’s Confessions – another work where a book influences the character to a profound degree. Also of the Twilight series, which instead of having the main character read and think about books, merely tried to draw a thinly disguised parallel between the great work and the author’s own.