Thursday, March 27, 2014

Middle-Grade Review: The Last Present

When I started Wendy Mass’s middle-grade novel The Last Present, I didn’t realize it was the last book in a series that I hadn’t completely read! But I did read the first book in the series, 11 Birthdays, a few years ago and enjoyed it. Despite missing out on some of what happened in the middle, I enjoyed this final novel in the popular middle-grade series set in the fictional town of Willow Falls.

Amanda and Leo, the main characters from 11 Birthdays, are now 13 years old, and their lives have continued to be affected by the magical events described in that book. At the start of the book, they are enjoying their friend David’s bar mitzvah when they need to rush to the hospital because the little sister of another friend, Connor, has suddenly become paralyzed. As Grace lies in her frozen state, her family and friends gather around her hospital bed. Amanda and Leo are certain that Angelina, the mysterious and ancient woman in town who caused their experiences two years ago, is somehow behind what’s happened to Grace…and they are right!

It turns out that only Amanda and Leo can save Grace, by going back in time to each of Grace’s birthdays, trying to make a small change there that will change her future for the better. They enlist the help of their friends, including Rory and Tara who were featured in books two and three. To say much more would ruin the considerable surprises in store for readers!

It seems that the two books I missed each feature a different character – Rory in one and Tara in the other – and revolve around other strange affairs involving Angelina. It would have been better if I’d read those two books, but I was still able to enjoy this fourth book (though I wouldn’t recommend reading this one without at least reading the first book). Although this sort of magical realism isn’t always my favorite kind of story, I enjoyed the two books I read in this series, possibly because time travel is a favorite plot device of mine! Mass is a talented writer, weaving together a realistic story of friendship (and young love as well!) with a magical plot.

246 pages, Scholastic


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