My younger daughter has recently gotten into the Wendy Mass series “Willow Falls” which starts with the book 11 Birthdays. She listens to audiobooks at night and picked this one and was quickly sucked in. I listened to snippets with her when she was going to sleep, and was intrigued enough myself that I figured I should pick it up. Thanks to an afternoon of flying, I finished it rather quickly.
The concept of this book is fun, if not highly reminiscent of the movie Groundhog Day. The story follows Amanda and Leo. They were best friends since their first birthdays when they were pushed into sharing a party. Were best friends, until their 10th birthday when Leo learned that there were words that once said couldn’t be unsaid. Now as they hit their 11th birthdays (they were born on the same day in the same hospital), something strange seems to be happening as they find themselves repeating that day over and over. They don’t realize that this repetition is happening to the both of them until Amanda decides to ditch school for the day.
Once they get that the other is part of this loop, they start to reconnect and fix the friendship that had been broken the year before. In addition to that, Leo takes the notion that since they are repeating this day with no consequences, they might as well do things they would never do in “normal” life. They go outside of their comfort zones and the reader watches as Amanda considers her family and friends from a wide variety of perspectives. She sees what little actions can do and acknowledges that she has been so wrapped up in herself for the past year that it was hard to recognize the good things around her.
This is a sweet book. My 8 year old and 11 year old are completely yin and yang of each other and it has been more challenging for me to figure out books for the younger one. She seems to appreciate realistic fiction more at a younger age and when pressed said that the thing she liked most about this book was when Amanda and Leo fixed their friendship. I think it is great to see two people realize that while mistakes were made, they weren’t worth scrapping a really meaningful friendship.
11 Birthdays is part of a collection of books called “Wish” books put out by Scholastic. The back of this book says that they feature “irresistible stories, fun & friendship, plus, first crushes!” They are supposed to appeal to 4th-6th graders, but my 2nd grader had a lot of fun with this and is currently reading another book from the umbrella group called You’re Bacon me Crazy. Regardless of who they are “intended for,” I’m happy to see my younger one find books that make her happy.