Originally reviewed here
.Why I Read It:
I really enjoyed Rebecca Stead's sophomore novel When You Reach Me
, which I read last year. As soon as this was released I sign it out of the bookstore I work at. Spoiler-free review ahead.
This book has quite a few similarities to When You Reach Me
: we have an MC who's been estranged from his best friend; an MC who's parents are largely absent; an NY setting. However, despite these likenesses, these are two very different stories, though this book explores its themes with the same deft hand that Stead demonstrated in WYRM.
I think where some readers (especially younger readers) will have a hard time is that the characters in this book aren't as likable as the ones from WYRM. Safer's odd behaviour is not of the quirky/endearing variety (I was especially frustrated with the way he treated his brother and sister). There's nothing that's in-your-face about this finely crafted story (and it is a very finely crafted story), and I'm also curious how that would resonate with younger readers; I personally thought it was great, but I'm also older. But I'm also not giving that age-group enough credit; I'm sure there's an audience for this book.
Stead really hits the nail on the head when talking about tween experiences though; the loneliness and just how hard it is to really find your place. I loved the metaphor with the painting from the artist that Georges (the 's' is silent) is named after, and how that metaphor was liked at from both sides. I love the quiet beauty of Stead's prose, and how it's simple but also full of meaning and feeling. She really is a great writer, and I'm glad someone like her is writing for a middle-grade audience (despite my concerns mentioned above).
My favourite part of this book was easily the ending. The way that Georges deals with the bullying he's experiencing at school was maybe a little too easy, but it's dealt with in a such a GOOD way and escaped being heavy-handed and corny. And the two "twists" that happened near the end really took me by surprise, though when you think back it's easy to see all the clues peppered throughout the text, making the twist appear inevitable and had me wondering how I missed them in the first place. They were heart-breaking reveals in some ways, but were ultimately hopeful.Final Verdict:
Some of the characters in this book weren't quite as likable from Stead's previous novel, When You Reach Me
, but it's still a finely crafted novel that has an ending that will totally take you by surprise. The prose is accessible, but also incredibly subtle, making this a great read for kids and older readers alike. This book has cemented me as a Rebecca Stead fan, and I'll definitely read whatever else she puts out. :)