Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review - "13 GIfts"

Life in Willow Falls has never been ordinary.  We've seen the evidence from Wendy Mass in 11 Birthdays and Finally, and in 13 Gifts, we see even more strangeness from this little out of the way burg.  After a school prank gone wrong (so much for fitting in with the popular kids), Tara Brennan is sentenced to a summer spent in her parents’ home town of Willow Falls.  While Tara plans on ducking her head and simply getting through it, her new friends insist on being, well, friendly.  They involve Tara in their activities, and sooner rather than later, Tara gets a glimpse into just how strange Willow Falls really is.  She makes a strange deal with Angelina, the oldest and most mysterious citizen, and has to find thirteen ordinary but unique objects before her thirteenth birthday, or risk endangering her very soul.  Thank goodness Tara has made friends, and friends who’ve dealt with Angelina before, because they all offer to help. 
13 Gifts is neither as magical as 11 Birthdays nor as age-sensitive as Finally, but it has its charms.  Tara is a wonderful character, full of rights and wrongs, and her willingness to simply jump in and believe in the unbelievability of Willow Falls is one of her best qualities.  Mass brings back characters from her previous works, Amanda, Leo and Rory, and has them act as guides to Tara’s extraordinary journey.  The conclusion is unexpected and a joy, something that gives everyone a little bit of what they want.  I don’t know if Mass intends to continue writing about the peculiar little town of Willow Falls, but I can see this series continuing on, up into YA territory, as the characters grow older, and Angelina and her duck (or is it a chicken?) birthmark gets new projects every year.

13 Gifts by Wendy Mass
2011, Scholastic Press
Library copy

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