Wednesday, June 8, 2011
* spoiler alert *
It's hard to review this one without a spoiler and it's equally difficult to review it without a reference to the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day. If you've been hibernating, groundhog style, and have never seen the movie, Bill Murray stars as a jaded weatherman who awakens each day to the exact same day, Groundhog Day in Punxatawney, PA.
11 Birthdays begins, fittingly, with a birth - two, actually. Amanda's and Leo's. While gazing separately at their newborn children, two sets of parents are approached by a peculiar, elderly woman. She asks the beaming parents to promise that the children will spend every birthday together. Not knowing each other, but willing to appease an old lady's fancy, the parents agree, not truly expecting to carry out her wish. But amazingly, they do. For ten years. But this year, their 11th year, Amanda and Leo are fighting and they do not spend their birthday together. And the day passes miserably.
And the following morning, Amanda and Leo awake to the same day, their shared birthday, their 11th birthday. And the day follows much in the same pattern as the day before and they awake, yet again, to their 11th birthday. It takes some number of days for each to realize that the other is experiencing the same phenomenon, and they begin to orchestrate the days events - sometimes with success and sometimes without.
In the end, they realize that there is a mystery to be uncovered if they are to ever escape their 11th birthday.
While it is, at its essence, a book of realistic fiction and self-discovery, 11 Birthdays also contains the elements of magic and mystery that make the entire premise possible. And while some of Leo and Amanda's exploits at the book's midpoint seem a little fantastic for 11-year-olds, there is that element of the fantastic.
This book will most likely be popular with lower middle grades. I think I would have enjoyed the print version more. An expressive reader with a distinct voice for each character, Ms. McInerney's voice is, however, too treacly for my taste. Still, it's hard to go wrong with a book by Wendy Mass. Every Soul a Star is one of my favorite books, and I believe that my daughter has read Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life at least five times.