I was at the library one day with my sister and wandering around looking for books (they didn't have Insurgent, boo) and came across these companion books to 11 Birthdays, which I absolutely adored. I checked them out and have now added to my "eventually buy" list. This series is so wholesome and good, perfect for the middle grade or slightly younger child that wants a contemporary novel instead of all fantasy or adventure. (There is a bit of both in these though.) My only complaint about these books was that the endings seemed rushed and not altogether satisfying. Well, I was just checking prices on Amazon and found out there will be a 4th and final book released in September that will bring all the stories together! How excited am I? Okay, not quite Harry Potter book 7 midnight release excited, but definitely Harry Potter movie 4 excited lol. So, because of that good news, I highly recommend that you have all 4 books ready if you plan on reading them or giving them to someone. The endings leave you wanting more more more about this cute little magical town called Willow Falls and that strange lady with the duck birthmark.
Finally by Wendy Mass
4 out of 5 stars
Rory Swenson is desperate to be twelve years old and it's finally happening. Turning twelve means all kinds of new things and responsibilities like getting a cell phone, staying home by herself, and getting to sit in the front seat of the car. Rory has been keeping a running tally of all these things and now that her birthday is finally here, she is ready to present them to her parents in a concise and well thought out chart. Her parents agree to go along with everything, despite being incredibly strict before. And Rory's adventure into pre-teenhood begins. ;)
This book is definitely the funniest of the 3. Rory is a bit of a klutz at times and though she is determined to succeed in all her plans, sometimes that falls short. Let's take her birthday morning as an example...she wakes up and is disappointed to find no special birthday breakfast waiting but instead some cereal and a note from Mom saying she is taking little brother to Toddler Yoga Class. No worries, she can use the stove now and cook her own breakfast. That goes out the window when she realizes that cooking is WAY too hard. But hey, she can have a cup of coffee now too! Or six cups of coffee. After getting the shakes, not being able to stand still for a second, and filling out her cell phone chart in a caffeine-induced haze, she decides that coffee may not be all that great after all. Amen sister. I'm a Dr Pepper gal myself...or Dr Dazzle if I'm being cheap hah!
Rory continues to try out new things and learn some lessons along the way about what growing up really means. Some things work: she becomes an almost expert baby-sitter. And some don't: her first time shaving her legs was, let's just say, a huge disaster. And hilarious. (There's blood) But in the end, she gets exactly what she needs and it all works out. Although she can't wear gold jewelry or most makeup.
13 Gifts by Wendy Mass
3 out of 5 stars
While Tara's 13th birthday story wasn't on the same level as the first 2, I still enjoyed it. Probably more for the interactions between previous characters than her individual story though. Tara's mom is constantly moving them around the country due to her career, so Tara finds it tough making new friends. She decided a long time ago that she really liked it better on the sidelines and didn't try to interact too much anymore. But when her mom pushes her to make more friends, she ends up getting into a bit of trouble and gets shipped off to her cousin's home in, you guessed it, Willow Falls.
While she is there, she meets a wide assortment of characters, many brought back from the first 2 books. Her cousin Emily, for example, is the girl that Rory baby-sat for. And she becomes friends with Amanda & Leo, who were being very odd throughout the book. (The main reason I'm so glad there is a 4th book coming out.) And of course, she has a run-in with Angelina, the mystical old woman with the duck birthmark. Tara gets roped into a wild goose-chase for Angelina and luckily her new friends are happy and excited to help her.
There is a bit of romance in this book, since the main character is a little older, but nothing too major and actually pretty sweet. Also, Tara is quite angsty for a while which got a little old but she gets over it and gets into finding the 13 items for Angelina, which have a surprising connection in the end. And as always, there are lessons for Tara to learn and this time, some grown-ups get some lessons too.