- 11 Birthdays
Amanda has celebrated every birthday with her birthdate-mate Leo, but their falling out last year leaves her anxiously facing her eleventh birthday alone. Her anxiety proves justified as chaos reigns: Amanda's pal Stephanie pushes her to try out for [End Page 247] gymnastics in hopes of snaring an in with the popular girls (drummer Amanda would rather try out for marching band), her mom gets fired, and she is nearly attacked by a gigantic SpongeBob balloon in her bedroom. All of this makes for a rather unpleasant birthday, but even worse is the next day—which is the same day all over again. Though the rationale for the Groundhog Day–reminiscent birthday-reliving is a little complicated and superfluous (it involves an ancient feud), the idea of a repeat birthday, with its multiple chances to get things right and its permission to act without incurring lasting consequences, is imaginatively developed and kid-pleasing. The now-tenuous/now-tenacious quality of the book's middle-grade friendships will ring true to its audience, and Amanda's voice is likable and humorous ("In a few hours, no one will remember any of this except for me and Leo. For the first time, I can't wait to see SpongeBob's freaky streamer arms waving at me in the morning"). Short chapters and quick pacing make the pages fly by, and kids not quite ready to leave boy-girl friendships behind will find this particularly satisfying.