Every time I read a Wendy Mass title, I fall more and more in love with her style and her ability to get into the minds of middle schoolers so perfectly. Finally, her latest release, is no exception: Mass depicts a funny and adorable 11-year-old-turning-the-big-12 in Rory.
“When you’re 12, you can,” is a common phrase Rory’s learned to live with. But she doesn’t just live with it, she takes stock in it. You see, Rory has been keeping a list of all the things she will be able to do when she turns 12, including getting her ears pierced, getting a cell phone, riding a roller coaster, getting an instant messenger screen name, and more.
But things won’t be as easy as she thinks, when she first has to leaf through stacks of pamphlets on different cell phones and cellular plans in order to pick one out. Nor will it be easy when she finds out that the number she gets for her phone actually belongs to an out-of-business pizza place and she begins receiving phone calls for extra large sausage and pepperoni pizzas while she’s sleeping and garlic-topped pizzas in the middle of class. And let’s not get started on what happens when she gets her ears pierced.
There’s good news though! Rory’s school is the site of a movie screening, and the lead actor in the movie is the oh-so-swoon-worthy Jake Harrison. When she and her friends hear the film crew will be casting for scene extras, you better believe she’ll be there…it just might be with some interesting physical issues that have come up as a result of her birthday list.
Finally is a fast-paced, hilarious novel that will take readers back to one of the most exciting ages in their lives, and it will resonate with middle schoolers who are themselves struggling with the challenges of never being old enough or mature enough to do some of the things that their friends do. Mass captures an authentic 12-year-old here that never once feels forced, too old, or too young. This is a page turner in the sense that as a reader, you want to see Rory succeed, but you also get a kick out of the terrible things that happen to her (don’t worry — none are terrible in the sense of bad, but rather in a funny sense).
Here’s a bonus for readers: if you’ve read 11 Birthdays, Leo and Amanda make an appearance in this book, too. In fact, the line when they are introduced is something to the effect of “Something weird happened on their birthdays last year, and it brought them together but they won’t tell anyone what happened.” I was laughing quite hard at this point, and I think that other readers will get a kick out of their reappearance in Finally.
This book would be an ideal readalike to Lisa Greenwald’s My Life in Pink and Green, a title that I’ve talked to middle schoolers a few times and which they report back to me they adore. The main characters in both are driven individuals with a lot of spunk and creativity, but they both have faults. There is a good family surrounding each, which is refreshing to see.
After reading this one, I’m so eager to dive into Mass’s forthcoming The Candymakers and to go back and read through some of her titles I’ve missed. If you haven’t been reading Mass, Finally may be a great place to begin, since it is a quick read and introduces you to her humor and character style quite well. This book is appropriate for middle schoolers and older, and it is a completely clean read.