by Wendy Mass
First sentence: “Like all big mistakes, mine started with a goat.”
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First of all: this is the third in a series that includes, 11 Birthdays and Finally, and if you haven’t read those two, you could possibly still read this one and enjoy it (I did, even though it’s been ages since I read the other two, and we all know how my memory is), you will get more out of the story if you read those two first. Besides, they’re good books, and you won’t be sorry you did.
Tara Brennan is one of those invisible people. She doesn’t really stand out, she doesn’t do much to be involved. It’s partly because of her mother’s job, they’re constantly moving, but it’s also by choice: Tara doesn’t want to be involved. Which means she’s as surprised as anyone to find herself stealing a (stuffed) goat from the principals office. After hours. She gets caught, of course, and as punishment is sent to Willow Falls to live with some relatives she barely knows. If that isn’t bad enough, she ends up working for Angelina D’Angelo, oldest person in town and resident mysterious busybody, collecting an odd assortment of things. Before her 13th birthday.
The best thing about this book is how it weaves the three books together. Tara has her own story, of course, but Amanda and Leo (from 11 Birthdays) and Rory (Finally) become not only involved but a crucial part of the plot. Additionally, there’s neighbor David and cousin Emily (not to mention the resident crazy-Aussie-guy, Ray) to add dimension to the story, since unlike the other kids, they have no idea what’s really going on.
It’s a nice balance of the magical — the second-hand shop that Angelina runs appears and disappears as needed — and the ordinary — Tara grows and develops and learns to be involved and have friends on her own merit, without magical assistance. Which makes it perfect for kids like C, who don’t particularly like fantasy, but don’t mind a touch of the magical.
It’s possibly my favorite of the three books, as well: even with the lying that Tara does to get her in the mess, it has a sweet and tender heart to it.