I’ve been thinking about what grips me about this story, why I’m so engaged. I think it’s largely because the narrator, Miranda, is so appealing. She feels like a real kid.
Stead set the story in pre-cell phone, pre-email 1979. Miranda is a 12 year old 6th grader living on the Upper West Side of New York City with her single mom, who works in a law office. Miranda navigates her school as an office monitor, and her street as a “latchkey child.” (p. 3) Her best friend from day care grows away from her, and she seeks new friendships in her class, friendships that are strained, broken, and ultimately healed.
What draws me into this story, in addition to the underlying mystery, is Miranda’s reliability as a narrator. I trust her, because she admits to feeling sad, and mad, and lonely, even mean and jealous. When her friend, Annemarie, hopes that a rose left on the doormat might have been left by Colin, the boy Miranda also likes, Miranda suggests to Annemarie that the rose might have been left by her dad. “Your dad is so nice. It has to be him.” (p. 112) Then the narrator Miranda describes her own feelings: “I was miserable, sitting on the edge of her bed in that puddle of meanness. But I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want Annemarie’s rose to be from Colin.”
However, you don’t have to accept my judgment of Miranda as a reliable narrator. Fourth grade students in Monica Edinger’s class at the Dalton School in New York City, to whom Ms. Edinger read When You Reach Me aloud, posted their own reviews of the book as blog posts in response to an assignment. One of the students wrote: “She [Miranda] lives a normal life...” and another student wrote: “...she [Miranda] is going through the whole friend business with Ann-Marie and Julia.”
STORYSLEUTHS TIP #22: Creating a reliable narrator by making him or her feel real to readers will pull them into your story.
Over to you, Allyson.
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