Each time I read a book by Wendy Mass, I remember how much I love her and why. Her books are so funny in that low-key observational way. The progression of her last three books has followed my daughter Amanda’s chronological age exactly, and we’ve carved out time to enjoy them together. Actually, she read and then insisted that I read 11 Birthdays. Then when I saw that Finally! was coming out, featuring a girl who would finally turn 12, when Amanda herself was getting close to that age, we bought it right away and read it together, and lo and behold when I was browsing amazon one day, I saw that 13 Gifts published in the month of Amanda’s 13th birthday.
These books are not sequels, but are loosely related, in that they take place in the same town, Willow Falls. Some of the characters float in and out, but you don’t have to be familiar with them to enjoy the story. You could read them in any order, but I think that your enjoyment of 13 Gifts would double if you have recently read Finally. (I think that Finally should be required reading for every tween girl and her mom. I love this book — truly hilarious and so right-on target).
In 13 Gifts, we meet Tara, who is a bit of a loner. She’s moved around a lot, so she’s learned to just keep to herself. This saddens her mother, who is always encouraging her to make friends. In an effort to please her mom, she gets tangled up in a scheme with some other kids that causes her to get suspended. She was supposed to go to Madagascar with her mom and dad (her mom would be working, studying lemurs in their habitat), but instead, she has to go to Willow Falls to stay with her aunt and cousin who she barely knows.
Tara’s not happy about it, but she’s not totally mopey either. She ends up making friends (Willow Falls literary characters Rory, Leo, and Amanda, plus David) and getting caught up in a couple of projects that she tries to keep a secret from her family.
I don’t want to give a lot of plot details, but if you liked 11 Birthdays or Finally, you will most certainly LOVE 13 Gifts. If you have a daughter in the 4th grade and up, share some Wendy Mass together.
Jennifer Donovan knows that there’s a lot she’s done wrong as a mom, but sharing books with her kids is something that she (and hopefully her kids) will always remember as something very right. She also blogs at Snapshot.