11 Birthdays, by Wendy Mass (Scholastic Press, 2009, 267pp, middle grade).
Amanda and Leo were born on the same day, in the same hospital. Their parents didn't know each other, and didn't particularly want to, but fate, helped by a mysterious old woman who's lived in their town for longer than anyone can remember, throws the children together. And Leo and Amanda spend birthday after birthday together, best friends.
The tenth birthday, however, was different. After it was over, Leo and Amanda weren't on speaking terms anymore. Now the eleventh birthday has come, the first where each kid is having a separate party. Amanda can't wait for it to be over with.
There's just one problem. The next day it's her eleventh birthday all over again.
Trapped in a daily time shift, Amanda slowly starts to push at the borders of temporal inevitability--at first reluctant to change anything, she gradually grows more confident in her daily exploration of her eleventh birthday. When she realizes that Leo too is repeating that particular day, together they set out to mend their friendship, and decide to push the boundaries of what they can do (Amanda, for instance, auditions as a drummer for a local rock band, Leo reads poetry at the open mic event at the local senior center). With every night washing out the consequences of the day before, life is whatever they want to make of it. But even the best birthday grows old, and so they set out to find the strange old woman who they suspect might have the solution to the time trap they have fallen into.
This is a beautifully realistic book, with the angsts of eleven-year old life front and center, but it is also a beautifully magical book, a what-if story of the nicest sort, that leaves the reader with lots to day-dream about. This dualistic nature might annoy the middle grade reader set on reading Fantasy (the consequences of the fantasy are explored much more fully than the magic itself), or the one fixed on Realistic Fiction (who might find the magic an irritant), but I think it more likely that it would make a fun change for either. To borrow the criteria of one of the judges in the School Library Journal Battle of the Books, I think my child self would have enjoyed it quite a bit. My adult self found it a very pleasant book to read while recovering from the flu (except that I kept imagining reliving day after day of recovering from flu....)
Some other reviews can be found at Teen Lit Review, Welcome to my Tweendom, and A Year of Reading.