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There is magic in everyday life. Sometimes we overlook it or take it for granted, but it is there. There's magic in friendships, in perfectly timed coincidences, in the learning space between childhood and adulthood. The optimistic, lighthearted novel Finally by Wendy Mass celebrates this fact and highlights the uniqueness of even the most seemingly average people and places.

The protagonist, Rory Swenson, is about to turn twelve. She's been waiting for this day her whole life: when she's twelve, she'll finally be able to do a multitude of things that her friends have been doing without her for years. Get a cell phone. Wear makeup. Exchange her glasses for contact lenses. Babysit . . .

Rory is used to feeling overlooked, left out. She's heard people call her "mousy" and "bookish." She's quickly forgotten in a crowd; and stemming from this is perhaps the most hurtful thing of all: she feels she doesn't matter.

Rory hopes her big day will change all that. But as each long-cherished wish is granted, Rory is forced to consider the difference between what she needs to do to fit in and what she truly wants.

I first discovered Finally at the school book fair in fifth grade. I was captivated before I had finished the first page. I had found a person just like me in the honest, cheerful Rory, and I walked home that day feeling like I had just made a new friend. Two years later, Rory has accompanied me through all the ups and downs of school and summer. Her chatty, entertaining voice brought sunshine to my darkest days, and though Finally is no action thriller, the protagonist's hilarious mishaps and sensitive heart weave the kind of tale which never grows old.

Frank, funny, and full of surprises, Finally is a story that spins many themes together, and consequently appeals to a wide range of readers. For one, it portrays the pressure to grow up before one might be ready, which nearly every middle schooler experiences at some point in their life. It touches, with a fresh take on the classic coming-of-age story, on the search for an identity both unique and "normal." At the end of the book, quiet Rory realizes that in her own, brown-haired, makeup-free way, she has changed lives. This is the part which I always treasured, because it reminded me that while some people are special in different ways from others, everyone is truly unique.

Under a captivating layer of humor, action, and frank reality, Finally broadcasts a powerful message, like pills dissolved in jelly: everyone is different, although it can be hard to realize. The pull to satisfy the mirage that constitutes the idea of "normal" can be strong, but it is possible to fight it. And when you do, the magic inside you will be unleashed.

Finally by Wendy Mass. Scholastic, 2011. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!

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