3 Small Reviews, Oh My!

I'm a bit behind on reviews after my vacation, so I'm going for a three-fer tonight.

Title:When You Reach Me
Author: Rebecca Stead
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (Random House)
Date: 2009
Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction (a little bit)

197 pages.
Where I got it: The public library
Challenges: None

Rebecca's Stead's charming little book, When You Reach Me, is the story of a sort-of-geeky preteen girl named Miranda (who happens to be obsessed with Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time) , her former best friend Sal, her new friends, her game-show contestant mother and a crazy, laughing homeless man.  Oh yeah, and it's about time travel.  One day, on their walk home from school, Miranda's best friend Sal gets punched in the face by a kid named Marcus and then decides that he doesn't want to be friends with Miranda anymore and starts to ignore her.  She is forced to expand her social circle and this (traditional narrative) part of the book accurately captures what seems to happen to tomboys as they grow into teenagers.  Miranda is experiencing the intricacies of female friendship and her first inklings of crush.  At the same time, she finds herself caught up in a strange mystery when she finds notes alluding to aspects of her life that would be impossible for the writer of the notes to know about.   Did I mention there is time travel in the book? And there are echoes of Daniel Pinkwater (for me at least).  Overall, I found the book entertaining and whimsical, not the best I've read this year, but certainly a lovely Sunday afternoon read.

Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Author: Mark Haddon
Publisher: Vintage Contemporaries
Date: 2003
Genre: Mystery-ish, Literary Fiction

226 pages.
Where I got it: I bought it somewhere.
Challenges: None

The narrator of Mark Haddon's book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is in the tradition of the unreliable narrator; the difference is that this narrator- Christopher John Francis Boone- is incapable of untruth. He is unreliable only because his view of the world is different than the average person's and this unique view is a result of his Asperger's Disorder (a form of high functioning autism).  The mystery plot of the novel is put into motion when Christopher finds his neighbor's dog, dead on the lawn, stabbed with a fork.  In the tradition of his favorite Sherlock Holmes stories, Christopher makes it his mission to find the murderer, and as a result, finds himself going on a much larger adventure than he could have anticipated.  Christopher's narrative voice is unique and engaging.  He reveals aspects of the world that most of us fail to see.  Although the book is sometimes bittersweet, it is a worthwhile, and often fun novel that would make a great summer read.

Title: Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Date: 1999
Genre: Contemporary YA

198 pages.
Where I got it: I bought it at the Goodwill
Challenges: 2011 Back to the Classics Challenge (YA Classic)

Laurie Halse Anderson's novel, Speak, won the Printz and was a finalist for the National Book Award, which is why I've classified it as a YA classic.  The story is the first person account of the narrator- Melinda Sordino's- first year of high school.  What makes hers different from everyone else's freshman year is that something happened to Melinda at a party before the school year started.  Something happened that caused her to call the cops and bust the party.  Something happened that she isn't telling any of her friends about.  And so Melinda starts out the year as a teenage outcast.  This is the second book of Laurie Halse Anderson's that I have read, and I have found that she handles serious subject matter very well. Although Melinda is dealing with some heavy stuff in her life, Anderson doesn't leave out the normal teenage stuff that she is dealing with as well.  I also liked the form of the narrative, which is divided into larger sections by "marking period" and then into smaller sections (a few paragraphs each) with clever, often snarky titles like, "Conjugate This" or "Student Divided by Confusion Equals Algebra." In the end, the characterization of Melinda is strong and the book has an important message for young girls about speaking up and finding their voices, even when the right thing to do isn't the popular thing.


  1. I loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - you're right it may not be all fun, but it is definitely worthwhile! It has its moments, but overall I found it kind of touching!!
    Speak sounds like a fun book, added to my TBR list!!

  2. I loved Curious Incident, I think the author did a great job of taking us inside Christopher's head and showing another way of looking at the world.

    I really want to read Speak!

  3. I agree with you for the most part. Curious Incident for me was more an interesting read than a great read. I thought Haddon did very well with his narrator, but unlike you who found him engaging, I was disappointed (with myself, mostly) to find him annoying. But I'm absolutely in sync with you about the other two.

  4. Curious Incident is one of my favourite books. I instantly fell in love with Christopher's unique voice and I learned so much about the feelings & characteristics of Asperger's from this book. You're right--it's a great summer read.

  5. @Priya: I found it to be a really fun and engaging read. Speak is good. It has fun parts, but it is dark as well. Thank for stopping by.

    @Tiny Libary: I thought that the narrative perspective was definitely unique and gracefully done.

    @As The Crowe Flies...: I thought it was a great summer read. I don't think I would put it on my top books of the year list, but it was light and thought-provoking. Christopher could be annoying, but I thought the depiction was well-rounded and realistic.

    @Teacher/Learner: Thanks for stopping by. I probbably should have put Curious Incident on my top ten beach reads last week.

  6. It has been ages since I read The Curious Incident, but I remember loving it! My brother recently bought another book by Mark Haddon (A Spot of Bother) and I hope I will enjoy it as much as The Curious Incident!

    Speak I have been wanting to read ever since I first heard of it (which was actually the beginning of this year).

  7. @Phanee: I've seen A Spot of Bother on shelves at the bookstore, but I don't have any idea what it is about. If you read it, I'll look forward to seeing a review.


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