Chapter Books – 11 Birthdays

Starting on the day they were born Amanda and Leo have shared every birthday together. Their parties have evolved as they’ve gotten older, but each one has been a team effort by best friends. But last year, at their tenth birthday, there was “an incident” and unforgivable words were said. This year, Leo and Amanda will celebrate their eleventh birthdays separately.

Except, after having the world’s worst eleventh birthday, Amanda wakes up to find herself reliving her days. Again, and again, she wakes up to the same alarm clock, the same annoying balloon, and the same inevitable set of circumstances. But why in the world is this happening? And why does the only other person who seems to realize that the day is endlessly looping have to be Leo?

This book owes a certain amount to the movie Groundhog Day (which it playfully acknowledges), but from there it moves on to its own completely separate ground. Where Bill Murray’s characters was a self-absorbed buffoon who needed to learn how to be a better person, Amanda and Leo are essentially likable kids. They help other people throughout their day, but they do so largely out of an innate willingness to do so, coupled with their power of forewarning, not because they needed to learn that particular lesson. They’re typical kids as well: as soon as they realize that there will be no consequences, they’re skipping school and off to have a good time. But only once: they feel so bad about scaring their parents, that they vow to attend school from then on.

Leo and Amanda’s adventures are fun and engaging. The hurt behind their breakup felt real, and they both have enough of a stubborn streak that keeping them from talking through their issues for an entire year did not feel like too much of a heavy-handed plot device. Altogether, a very enjoyable read.

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