11 Birthdays

by Wendy Mass
ages: 9-12
First sentence: “The oddest thing about Angelina D’Angelo was that no one could remember a time when she didn’t live in Willow Falls.”
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When I saw this book over at Shelf Elf a while back, I knew I had to put it on hold if only because Wendy Mass wrote my favorite middle grade book of last year.

And, while I don’t think I loved this one as much as Every Soul a Star, it’s still charming and magical and sweet, and well worth the time to read.

Amanda and Leo were born on the same day. Their parents met, and nothing more was thought about it until a year later, when they both scheduled the same party place at the same time and on the same day and ended up celebrating their birthdays together. Thus a tradition was born. Fast forward 10 years, when Amanda overhears Leo trying to be cool with his friends, telling them he’s only her friend out of pity. The tradition end, the friendship broken.

Then comes her eleventh birthday, which really isn’t all that grand. It’s not, particularly, that anything goes wrong. It’s more that nothing quite feels right. And that evening, when her party is a spectacular flop — because Leo is having his across town instead of with her — it seems that nothing will ever be right again.

And then, the next morning she wakes up and it’s her birthday all over again.

It’s kind of a Groundhog Day for middle grade readers: Amanda and Leo are stuck in the loop together and have to figure out how to get it to stop looping their birthday. I have to be honest: this idea worked well enough as a movie (except for Andie McDowell, who sucks the life out of the movies she’s in), but I had little confidence that it would work as a book. Thankfully, Mass is skilled enough to pull it off. It’s amusing and gratifying to see how the enchantment all plays out, from the realization that they’re stuck in the loop (not only individually, but together), to their working out their differences, to the way they figure out how to get out of the loop. Mass has used the right amount of whimsy and magic to make this story believable, without overburdening it with charms and spells. Amanda and Leo are perfect friends, tentative at first because of the fall-out, but in the end making a perfect team.

It’s a cute story about finding and remaining friends even when it seems impossible. But then, with Wendy Mass, nothing is impossible.

One thought on “11 Birthdays

  1. I think my son would like this. He hasn't seen groundhogs day so he'll probably like the loop a lot as original. I think I'll get this from the library for him.

    (Sorry if you get this comment twice. The embedded comment thing has been screwing up a lot lately.)


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