When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead
When You Reach Me Theme of Forgiveness and Compassion
Most coming-of-age novels have heart, but When You Reach Me, we would argue, has a bigger heart than most. (Did you cry at the end? Seriously, we won't tell anyone. Yeah, OK, we cried too.) Part of the reason this book tugs so hard at the heartstrings is that nearly all of its plotlines revolve around stories of compassion, forgiveness, and empathy (the ability to feel what someone else is feeling). The novel gives us powerful examples of self-sacrifice and redemption (Mom and Marcus). It tells us about what it means to start thinking of other people and grow into adulthood (Miranda). It also gives us powerful stories of friendships that are broken and renewed (Miranda and Sal, Annemarie and Julia). These characters are exciting and fantastic because they travel through time, sure, but in the end they stick with us because of their ability to feel for others, to sacrifice, and to forgive.
Questions About Forgiveness and Compassion
- Why does Miranda's mom drop out of law school? Why does Miranda give her mom law school applications at the end of the book?
- Why does Miranda's mom collect potato chip bags? What does this say about what kind of person she is?
- Why does the Laughing Man kick Sal out from in front of the bus? Why does he sacrifice himself for Sal?
- In Chapter 41, why does Miranda decide she wants to be a nicer person?
- Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and feel what they are feeling. Can you think of examples of when Miranda feels empathy for other people?
- Why does Miranda think the Laughing Man is a "crazy-shaped person" instead of just a crazy person?
- How does Miranda deal with it when Sal stops talking to her. Is she able to forgive him? If so, what helps her to forgive him?
Chew on This
Miranda starts out as a person who doesn't have empathy, but learns to have empathy over the course of the book.
Miranda discovers that the best way to feel compassion for other people is to learn more about their personal lives.