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When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me


by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me Theme of Society and Class

America has long been described as the great melting pot, and the same goes for late 1970s New York City. In When You Reach Me, we get an idea of the complex communities of people who live in the city. The novel's characters come from varied backgrounds. Miranda's family is poor and white, for example, yet she goes to school with many wealthy people. Julia, on the other hand, is a person of color, and she comes from a privileged background. Annemarie, meanwhile, is both white and privileged. The Laughing Man, a homeless man who lives on the street near Miranda's apartment, also plays an important role in Miranda's life. With its diverse cast of characters, the novel confronts the complicated issues of race and class in America – including racism and classism.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. What is a latchkey kid?
  2. Who is latchkey kid besides Miranda?
  3. Miranda is good at accepting people who share her background (people like Sal), but has a harder time connecting with and feeling compassion for people with different backgrounds.  How does her attitude about people with different backgrounds change over the course of the book? Think, in particular, about Miranda's relationship with Julia and the Laughing Man.
  4. What happened on the first day that Miranda and her mother moved into their apartment?
  5. Why doesn't Miranda like Julia?
  6. Why does Miranda call Julia "Swiss Miss"? Why does Jimmy call Julia "Swiss Miss"?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

When You Reach Me shows an accurate picture of American families today, across social classes.

Though they come from different social classes, Miranda and Julia are more alike than they are different.

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