September 13, 2009 By 31 Comments
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but . . . WHEN YOU REACH ME isn’t quite as good as you think it is. Oh, to be sure, it’s one of the best books of the year–arguably the best fiction, certainly. It just strikes me as an Honor book more than a Medal book. And it’s not that I’d be unhappy with it as the Medal book as much as I’d be ambivalent about it.
The book does have numerous strengths and I’m sure we’ll discuss them at length, but I’d like to pick a bone with the time slip element which I find problematic and unsatisfying.
We never learn the backstory for the adult Marcus, how he could travel back through time and why he choose to come back and save Sal, of all people. Of course, Stead provides a serviceable explanation for his inability to do so–that the time travel has scrambled his brains–but that shouldn’t matter because a genuinely clever plotter would have found a way around that obstacle to dispense that information to the reader.
It might not seem like such a big deal to contemporary fiction readers, but us fantasy/science fiction readers get our noses all bent out of joint over stuff like this.