11 Before 12
The first day of middle school means trading in freeze tag at the pool for new schedules, fabulous outfits, and a fresh start. But for eleven-year-old Kaylan, the chaos of new locker combinations, cafeteria cliques, and potential first kisses is more than she can handle. She dreads the start of sixth grade and feels like she wants—no, needs—a winning game plan.
Luckily, Kaylan and her effortlessly chill BFF, Arianna, have a fool-proof plan for tackling transitions: a list of eleven things they need to do to totally transform themselves before they both turn twelve in November. But between making guy friends, getting detention (and makeovers!), helping humanity, and having super-candid conversations with their moms about their flaws, the first 100 days of school turn out worse than Kaylan ever imagined. Kaylan and Ari forget to focus on their friendship and soon their loyalty to the list—what was meant to help them keep it together—becomes the very thing tearing their lives apart.
Middle School Dilemmas
'11 Before 12' by Lisa Greenwald will put you right back in that time of your life when everything mattered too much and nothing at all mattered more than your best friend. Kaylan and Arianna find this to be true as they gear up for sixth grade. They are chock full of excitement as they decide to make a list of all of the tasks they want to complete before turning twelve in November. Having their birthdays one day apart has convinced them of the need to plan a joint twelfth birthday party to celebrate their friendship and the new age that will bring them what they consider so much more of out of life.
Instead they find that the list starts to tear them apart. While Kaylan wants to stay true to the list and everything they've planned for it, including doing it together, Arianna is more open to bringing other people in and allowing them to be part of what Kaylan considers a super-special best-friends-only listing of tasks for the girls to share. While they do a few items together, they also find that they are finishing some separately. It was nice to understand Kaylan's point of view throughout the whole story since it is really quite a spot-on indicator of how any girl in her position would feel, worried about losing her best friend, but hopeful that things will eventually work out. However, hearing Arianna's point of view a bit more throughout would have been helpful. As the novel progresses, we learn more about how she feels about it all, but a dual look at their lives may have enhanced the storytelling a bit. Yet, this was not really an issue.
From Kaylan's worry over which boy to kiss and how to make a guy friend to Arianna's new girlfriends, lunch table gossip abounds, and the two are left sitting on the sidelines of each other's lives, waiting to be filled in with the nitty gritty details. Any reader will feel smack dab back in the action of middle school, as Lisa Greenwald creates the questions of how Kaylan and Arianna will move forward, how their troubles will affect their futures, and how family can matter more than a sixth grader believes, especially when on the outs with your best friend forever. A definite must read for any young adult and middle grade novel lovers!