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When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me


by Rebecca Stead


Character Analysis

When we read teen and tween fiction we know that our protagonist is probably going to be asking a lot of the typical coming-of-age questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What is my place in the world?
  • What does it all mean?

You get the picture.

Miranda in When You Reach Me is no exception. Like most tweens (fictional or otherwise), she's trying to figure out who her real friends are, what to do with kind-of-cool skater guy that she likes, and how not to fight with her mother all the time. Miranda is pretty average in that way.

What sets a character like Miranda apart, though, is she's not in a typical novel. Miranda's story has elements of science fiction, mystery, and historical fiction. In other words, Miranda is a character in a novel that's trying to figure out a lot of heady questions that most teens and tweens wouldn't have to deal with, like:

  • Is time travel possible?
  • What is the nature of time and space?
  • How can we see the "truth" of our reality?

Clearly, Miranda has a lot on her plate. We might think of her character as a more intense and cerebral (that means brainy) version of a traditional young adult heroine.

Want more specifics about Miranda? Let's play a speed round version of her character arc. Ready for the Winner's Circle? Let's go.

Things Miranda Loves – A Lot

Miranda is completely devoted to the novel A Wrinkle in Time, that's for sure. She really relates to its heroine, Meg Murry, who always feels to be right around her same age as Miranda (3.13). Miranda carries around a copy of the book with her wherever she goes and has been known to recite plotlines to unwitting shopkeepers (Chapter 3). She has no time to dilly dally around with other novels like Harriet the Spy (23.24).

Bonus round: Should Miranda give other books a chance? Why?

Miranda also loves her friend Sal, her best friend who, for a very long time she considered to a part of herself: "Miranda and Sal, Sal and Miranda" (5.9). The two shared most of their private thoughts and feelings for many years. Just as with her favorite book, Miranda didn't have many friends other than Sal.

Bonus round: Why is it important that Sal and Miranda have other friends?

Things Miranda Doesn't Necessarily Like

Miranda obviously loves her mother, but there are things about the woman that irritate the heck out of Miranda – in particular, her clothes. Miranda's mom always wears wacky tights and crazy-colored outfits to work (3.31). It's almost like Miranda is the "mother" and her mother is the "daughter" in their relationship. On top of that, Miranda is a latchkey kid who takes on more responsibility than other kids her age.

Bonus round: How might Miranda's resentment be resolved?

As someone who is capable of strong feelings, Miranda also "hates" her arch nemesis Julia (11.9), a girl who is rich and uppity, according to Miranda. Though her feelings about Julia are intense, they are largely unexamined.

Bonus round: How are Julia and Miranda very much alike?

Confusing Things

Friendships can be pretty confusing for Miranda – her relationships with Sal, Annemarie, and Colin are all rocky at one time or another.

Bonus round: What is it that heals her relationship with all of these people?

Another thing that scrambles Miranda's brain? Time – at least the way Marcus describes it in Chapter 14. Miranda's point of view is a pretty common sense one, but in order to solve the mysteries of the novel, she's got to learn to lift the corner of her veil and to let go of her old understanding of the world.

Bonus round: How would you explain the novel's theory of time to a friend?

Things Miranda Learns

The things Miranda learns in this novel could fill a book (and in fact, they do). She learns how to be a good friend to Sal and others. She learns how to be compassionate. She also learns about time. All of this gives Miranda a brand new perspective – or way of seeing the world. By the end of the novel, we see her transformation is complete.

Bonus round: What is your "magic thread"?