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Leap Day

by Wendy Mass

Published by Little, Brown, 2004
212 pages
ISBN: 0-316-53728-4

Age 12-16

Wendy Mass's novel balances lighthearted fun with a thoughtful examination of the many ways we only think we know and understand each other. Teenager Josie Taylor is turning four--her birthday is February 29. The many events of Josie's leap year birthday play out in chapters that alternate between Josie's first-person narrative and an omniscient author offering perspectives on events directly and indirectly related to Josie from many individuals who interact with her in one way or another throughout the day. One of the most intriguing thing about those chapters are the brief glimpses of the future that are sometimes offered, underscoring the ways things that loom so large in the present can fade to insignificance, or how seemingly small acts can lead to a life-changing course. In addition, by giving insight into so many characters, and offering multiple perspectives on the same series of events (which range from solemn--but never heavy--to hilarious), Mass offers a fascinating look at the way individuals so easily interpret the feelings and actions of others based on conclusions that are often incorrect, and how misunderstandings and missed opportunities can result. Set primarily at Josie's high school, the novel creates an intimate portrait of Josie, an essentially happy teen who nonetheless has fears she's hasn't told even her closest friends, and insecurities she can't articulate, although others see them. Her older brother signs her up for a peer group on self-esteem. One of her closest friends intentionally holds back when auditioning for the school play because she knows Josie wants and need to shine at the same auditions. Mass reveals dramas both small and large taking place at the school and within Josie's family, from a classmate who goes into labor, to her best friend's revelation that she thinks she might be lesbian, to her father's pursuit of his dream job: guest host at Disney World, to the outrageous sophomore scavenger hunt that is an annual school tradition. Josie's friendships are solid, despite occasional misunderstandings, and the members of her family don't just love each other, they really like one another--moreso, in fact, than any of them fully realize. That's one of the many refreshing aspects of this unusual, highly original novel set over the course of a single day. (MS) 2004 Cooperative Children's Book Center

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