Summer Loves: Thirteen Plus One by Lauren Myracle
The thing about BIRTHDAYS, at least fourteenth birthdays is that they're more...well...complex than every single birthday that came before. Or maybe the only reason I thought so was because I just this very day turned fourteen. Me me me me me me! Fourteen, fourteen, fourteen, fourteen!!!!
Fourteen years and counting, baby. That was a lot of birthdays!
Winnie Perry feels different, even though there are still three months left of junior high. High school looms ahead, scary, yes, but a long-sought milestone of maturity, and suddenly Winnie feels the importance, if not exactly the weight, of her years. Suddenly things seem more poignant, more significant, and Winnie is compelled to compose one of her famous lists for the last few days before she enters high school:
TO DO BEFORE HIGH SCHOOL
SAY OUT LOUD WHAT I WANT OUT OF LIFE
BUT ALSO PRACTICE BEING OLDER SOMEHOW
DO SOMETHING TO HELP THE WORLD (LIKE THAT THREE CUPS OF TEA GUY)
BECOME FRIENDS WITH SOMEONE NEW
TAKE CHARGE WITH LARS!
DO SOMETHING SCARY,
But Winnie flubs her new rules on the very day of her birthday. She just knows her ninth-grade boyfriend is going to know what she really wants--for him to present her with a darling cupcake with a pink candle, followed by a sweet kiss, in full view of everyone in her cafeteria. But he fails the best boyfriend test big time, nonchalantly handing her a Starbucks Gift Card after school. Somehow Winnie is disappointed. Logically she knows he can't read her mind, but selfishly, she can't help believing he should have picked up on the hints she slipped to him before the big day.
Things seem to going downhill with Lars from there on. And when Lars announces that he's going to be away with his mom, who is studying in Germany, for the whole summer, Winnie somehow feels that she needs to get even, and when shy Dinah gets caught hiding weird Mary's shoplifted stash in her locker and her father declares that she has to attend a "leadership" camp most of the summer, Winnie decides to go along and books them into an ecological beach camp, helping sea turtle hatchlings. Cinnamon, her temporarily boy-hating other best friend, also finally agrees to come along at the last moment and the three BFFs are headed off for the sand and sun of South Carolina.
There the friends deal with living with other teens--including some really great boys and a couple of, well, different girls--in a big old house on the coast, where they get much more than killer tans out of the experience. Dinah finds her first boyfriend, shy and sweet like herself, and Cinnamon suddenly gets over the trauma of being dumped by Bryce midyear and falls for the lanky James. Winnie is torn, flirting with the hunky and somewhat overbearing Alphonse, and worrying about her relationship with Lars which is also in the swamp for the summer.
The three friends all find themselves growing through the new experiences in understanding and self confidence, and in the latest for the New York Times best-selling Lauren Myracle's Thirteen Plus One (The Winnie Years) (Dutton, 2010), she continues her solid but light-as-cupcake frosting tales of Winnie. Winnie is a wonderful character, developed in a series of books centered around her eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and now fourteenth birthdays. As with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's excellent Alice series, young teens could do worse than grow up as best friend of the honest, funny, and basically decent Winnie Perry.