Like any good mystery novel, the ending of When You Reach Me gives us the answers we want – nay, the answers we need.
Examples? We've got plenty.
We learn why Sal stopped hanging out with Miranda. We find out what happened to Richard's stolen shoe. We figure out that the Laughing Man wrote the creepy notes to Miranda and that the Laughing Man is actually an older version of Marcus. We even sorta kinda understand the nature of time and the universe. When Miranda says to Marcus, "Don't land in the broccoli," we totally know what that means and we even chuckle a little bit to ourselves (55.5).
Getting all of these answers is deeply satisfying. When You Reach Me isn't just a simple mystery novel, though. It's also a novel that's interested in the truths about humans. Unlike in a whodunit story, the answers we get from Stead's novel can also make us really, really sad.
One of the great truths we learn from the story of Marcus and the Laughing Man is that humans have an incredible capacity for compassion and sacrifice. What the Laughing Man does for Sal is an awesomely noble act, yet it ultimately gets him killed. This paradox is both deeply beautiful and heart-wrenchingly sad.
"That doesn't make any sense" your brain yells.
"But all of it is true," we say.