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.
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.