Monday, January 12, 2015

13 Gifts by Wendy Mass, 2011

When Tara, a self-proclaimed shrinking violet, steals the school mascot, a goat, in order to make some friends with the popular crowd and gets caught, she gets herself in a heap of trouble. In addition, her parents decide that instead of taking her on their summer trip to Madagascar to study the courtship rituals of the Bamboo Lemur, she must go stay with her aunt, uncle, and bratty cousin Emily St. Claire in Willow Falls. Tara thinks it's a good time to start over; she'll be turning 13 after all, so she might as well make the best of it and perhaps even attempt to break out of her shell (in a non-criminal manner). What Tara doesn't know is that this charmed town has something big in store for her on her 13th birthday. It's not a typical birthday. But then again, nothing is Willow Falls is exactly typical!

My copy of this book is very special to me: it was the first arc I ever received. A kind librarian gave it to me a short while before its release date, and I was in awe at this strange and magical idea that you could read a book before it came out. I had no idea how to get an arc on my own power and figured that I wasn't important enough to get one - but I cherished my copy of 13 Gifts and have taken care of it for years.

All right, let's get going! This is the third book in the Willow Falls series. Click here to read my review of 11 Birthdays, and here for my review of Finally. This is one of my favorite series; a comfort read I fell back on when I felt miserable after surgery. I decided to review the entire series so others could discover it.

This is the first book in the series that really leans on the ones before it, making it much more enjoyable if you've read the earlier books. Tara, our latest heroine, comes to stay with her cousin Emily (from Finally) and becomes friends with characters from the other books. I'm sure you could make it through this one without having read the others, but it would spoil the first books and would be a lot less fun. One of my favorite things about this book is that it is full of nods and references to the first two books. Inside jokes, old friends, and past mishaps all make appearances throughout the book - and poor Tara is completely befuddled by them!

For many years I cherished this book because of the way it felt like a culmination of the others. Tara is actually the least relatable of the main characters, because I would never steal a comic book from my uncle, no matter how much I needed the money. It's not that I don't like her, and in most of the book she's great. I just don't find her particular predicament relateble. The story is fun, though, and I've reread it numerous times. This is the book that really solidified my love for the series, because while a first book doesn't affect the books that come after it, and the second book that's also a standalone can be an anomaly, by the time you get to the third book in the series and you love that one you know that without a doubt you love the entire series. After reading this one, I hunkered down and started counting the days until the next one came out.

Have you read this series? How do you like it? And if you haven't, do you think it looks interesting? Next week is my review of the fourth and last (published) book in the series.


  1. You have read so many books by Wendy lately! You must really be enjoying all of her books :)

    1. I do love her books! I've read almost all of them, and they're often fall-back reads when I can't decide what to read next. I reread the Willow Falls series after surgery last month, and decided to review them once I was feeling better (i.e. able to get out of bed!).


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