Finally (Willows Falls, book two)
By Wendy Mass, read by Kathleen McInerney
Published 2011 by Scholastic Audio
Rory is finally turning twelve. She's been waiting for ages for this day to arrive and she is prepared. She's been carefully keeping a list of all the things she'll finally be allowed to do once she turns twelve. But a strange encounter with an old woman leaves Rory a bit shaken and she soon discovers that all the things she's been waiting for might not be as awesome as she thought.
The first Willow Falls book, 11 Birthdays, was one of the titles we read back when I was running my tween book club. I found it a very enjoyable read - fun and mysterious with just a hint of magic - and I'd been meaning to read the sequels ever since. I finally downloaded the audio version and listened.
I didn't like this one as much as the first. I still found it quite charming - it's hard not to like Rory and her family - but it was missing a little something. I found the story a bit more disjointed than Amanda and Leo's story - the whole bit about a movie being filmed at their school actually seemed unnecessary and, at times, a bit intrusive to the real story of Rory and her list. It also seemed to take a very long time for the ominous warning in the first chapter to actually be explained in the story - in other words, it took a really long time for the bit of magic to come into play in this volume. And, when it finally did, ultimately, I didn't find it as satisfying as what had happened in book one.
I was surprised by how much of a role Amanda and Leo played in this one - prior to reading, my understanding was that it wasn't a tight series, just a group of companion books. So I expected the connection between book one and two to be much looser than it was. This is not a strength or a fault, just something unexpected that hit me.
I thought the audio was well done. McInerney has a believable 12-year-old girl voice and her Sawyer voice was also quite brilliant. She did a great job switching tones and inflections for the variety of other characters as well. I found this a very pleasant listen.
I'll be checking out book three (and did you know there's a book four also?) and continuing to recommend this series to kids looking for a fun and magical read.