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When You Reach Me
When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead
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When You Reach Me Theme of Time

Plenty of TV shows, movies, and novels try to tackle the tricky topic of time travel – what it is and how it works. Like other stories before it, When You Reach Me asks us to wrap our brains around this heady concept. Fortunately for us, our guide isn't a brainiac scientist with a chalkboard spouting equations, but a normal kid named Miranda who does a pretty good job of letting us in on how time travel works – that is, once she figures it out for herself.

And let's get one thing straight: the novel isn't only about time travel. As a theme, time is everywhere in this novel. The pages are littered with clocks and watches (see our section "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory: Clocks and Watches"). Time is important to a tween like Miranda because she's growing up and time is passing. It's not just Miranda. Miranda's mom is trying to literally beat the clock on a game show. Then there's Marcus, who is trying to manipulate and move through time. You might just say that time is very, very important for all of the novel's characters (see our section "Antagonist: Time").

Questions About Time

  1. What complaint does Marcus have about A Wrinkle in Time? How do you think he'd view time travel in other books you've read or movies you've seen (like maybe Hermione's use of the Time-Turner in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?
  2. Who wears a watch in this novel? Why?
  3. What does Dick Clark make Miranda realize?
  4. What is the relationship between the Laughing Man and Marcus?
  5. Whose explanation of time did you like better, Marcus's or Julia's? Why? If you had to describe the nature of time to someone, how would you do it?
  6. The story isn't told in chronological order. We enter the story in the middle of things, then Miranda tells us what happened earlier. How does the order the story is told impact the book? How would the book be different if it were told chronologically instead?

Chew on This

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

The novel shows that even small acts in the past will always have an effect on the present.

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