43 pages 1 hour read

Wendy Mass

11 Birthdays: A Wish Novel

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2009

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Friendship, Rejection, and Fitting In

Amanda and Leo both struggle with the social pressures of fitting in. This preoccupation often causes them to act inauthentically, such as when Leo tells his friends that he has shared birthday parties with Amanda only because he’s forced to and because Amanda doesn’t have many friends. In that moment, his fear of rejection by his peers outweighs his self-confidence. Leo caves to their pressure and betrays Amanda and himself. Her reaction is swift and unforgiving: she throws out or packs up all traces of their friendship and doesn’t speak to Leo for a year. Leo eventually learns that the cost of fitting in is his authenticity, and he grows confident enough to apologize to Amanda and repair the damage he caused.

Similarly, Amanda, on all but one of her 11th birthdays, chooses to go to the gymnastics tryouts even though she longs to try out for the marching band. She endures stress and embarrassment at the gymnastics tryouts even though she’s ill-prepared because she wants to ascend the “coolness ladder” at school. Like Leo, Amanda fears rejection by the popular kids and would rather sacrifice her passion for music and fit in than be herself and risk not having their good opinion.