Monday, December 29, 2014

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass, 2009

Synopsis (from Goodreads):It's Amanda's 11th birthday and she is super excited -- after all, 11 is so different from 10. But from the start, everything goes wrong. The worst part of it all is that she and her best friend, Leo, with whom she's shared every birthday, are on the outs and this will be the first birthday they haven't shared together. When Amanda turns in for the night, glad to have her birthday behind her, she wakes up happy for a new day. Or is it? Her birthday seems to be repeating iself. What is going on?! And how can she fix it? Only time, friendship, and a little luck will tell. . . 

I read this book for the first time several years ago. In many ways it helped me start a new era of flexibility in my reading patterns: up until this point I refused to read any book not written in third person past tense. For those of you who have not read this book, it is written in first person present tense. I basically read it because my mother told me to and because I had nothing else to read and once started, could not put it down. It made me realize that sometimes you have to be flexible in your reading habits, because sometimes you can find the most wonderful books written in ways that you are not accustomed to.

Now, I'm sure you can tell from my opening paragraph that I really liked this book. That is true. I really, really like this book. In fact, I like the whole series. No, I love the whole series. Frankly, I love almost every book Wendy Mass has ever written. And it all started with this book, five years ago. Over the next few weeks, I plan to post my reviews of all of the books in this four – book series. As some of you may know, I recently had surgery on my dominant wrist and have spent a lot of time lately with nothing to do but read a book. Unfortunately, that time has now ended and I am scrambling to catch up all of the schoolwork that I got behind on while recovering from the surgery. But while I was still incapacitated, I started rereading the Willow Falls series as a sort of comfort read. Now I plan to review them so that others can see why I love these books so much.

The story itself in this book is a fun if slightly cliché set up: Amanda is stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque scenario where every morning when she wakes up she has to repeat the same birthday over and over again. It was miserable the first time; by the third time, it's practically unbearable. She has no idea what is going on, or how to fix it. It's like her worst nightmare: she has spent a year feeling very alone without her ex-best friend Leo, but now she is truly alone with no one to confide in as she has to repeat the same day over and over again. I love the set-up of the story (part of which I can't mention for spoiler reasons), and while the book literally takes place over the course of one day repeated over and over aagin, it's really cool seeing how the choices Amanda makes affects the world around her. It's like one of those models I'm learning about in AP Macroeconomics: how does a change in one factor change the entire economy? How does a change in the behavior of one(ish - sh, spoilers!) person?

I love the two main characters. Amanda is, obviously, the main focus of the book. The story is told from her point of view so you get a firsthand view of the worst day of her life. While I personally have never gotten in a huge fight with my best friend, stressed about getting onto the chearleading squad (while really wanting to join the much nerdier marching band as a drummer), or gotten stuck in a time loop where I have to repeat a terrible day over and over again, I was still right there with Amanda every step of the way. She was not like me in any way, but she was someone I'd like to be friends with. The other MC, Leo, doesn't really get involved directly in the story until about halfway through the book. I can't really go into much detail with Leo because of the risk of spoilers, but suffice to say I wouldn't mind having him as a friend, either!

I love this book. I just want to end on that point. Because of reading this one book several years ago, I have now read (and loved!) over ten other books by Mass. And the wonderful thing about this series is that it builds in the most delicious way. Each book focuses on a different person and a different storyline (except the fourth book, which focuses on Amanda once more), and each book is just as good if not better than the one before it. Stay posted for my reviews of the other books in the wonderful Willow Falls series!



    1. I'm glad you loved it as much as I did! Have you read any of the other Willow Falls books?


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