(Review) LEAP DAY by Wendy Mass

Author: Wendy Mass
Release Date: Out now (Sept. 06, 2006)
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Received: Bargain Book


What if you could step into everyone else's shoes for just one day?  Soon-to-be-sixteen Josie Taylor was born on Leap Day, February 29, and now it's her "fourth" birthday.  

Like every teenager, sometimes she wonders what other people are thinking, but in this unusual novel, YOU get to find out--by leaping into the minds and viewpoints of Josie and everyone around her.  

Birthday festivities, school play auditions, her driver's test, a scavenger hunt, and the all-important sweet-sixteen initiation at the lake--these are the things that define Josie Taylor today...but what defines her tomorrow and in the days to come are the people who touch her life at every moment.  

Full of everyday imaginations and truths, LEAP DAY will surprise you in more ways than one.

What better book to read on a day that comes once every four years than LEAP DAY by the always-innovative Wendy Mass?  The novel is one of Mass' teen offerings; most of her titles are middle grade.  The book centers around a girl named Josie on her sixteenth birthday--also known as her fourth birthday.  Josie is a Leaper, one of the few born on February 29th.  She's excited about her special day and hopes everything goes perfectly.  While it starts off well enough--she's having a fabulous hair day and has been given car keys as a gift--the rest of the day gets off to a rocky start.  From worrying about whether or not she'll earn her driver's license to trying out for the much-coveted role of Juliet for the school's upcoming production of ROMEO AND JULIET, Josie's birthday is as ordinary as it is extraordinary.

Mass utilized a unique writing technique when writing LEAP DAY.  She writes A Chapters and B Chapters.  A Chapters are always from Josie's POV (Chapter 1A, for example).  B Chapters (Such as Chapter 1B) are always from the POV of other characters mentioned in that chapter.  We get little paragraphs with the thoughts of friends, family members, teachers, enemies, crushes, classmates, etc. It's interesting to see what everyone is thinking about everything.  Maybe Josie thinks someone did something, but that person has no clue and is thinking about something else completely.  Or maybe she wonders why someone dislikes her.  As a reader, we're privy to everything.  These B Chapters took a little getting used to, but they absolutely fleshed out the story. We'd all love to know what the people around us really think about us or what's going on, but we never know for sure.  We don't know all of the fears and dreams and reasons that motivate people to move on certain paths in life.  Every once in a while, Mass even foreshadows what will happen to a character in the future such as: "It didn't occur to Tom to write the things that he did do today.  He won't start writing those things in his diary until next year, when he'll start calling it a journal.  He'll have had his own room for months by then, along with a new appreciation of why a teenage boy might want his own room" (pg. 163).  Oftentimes, readers are left wondering what will happen in the future and this was a nice flourish to add on.

Overall, LEAP DAY is a light contemporary that reads fast.  It takes place over the course of one day, so there's not an epic story full of carefully knotted ends.  Instead, we're allowed a single glimpse.  This is life, which will continue on tomorrow and the day after.  Not everything is resolved, but not everything can be in a single day.  While Josie doesn't have any miraculous character growth, she does have a slight revelation towards the end that will change her in the days to come.  Plus, the book takes an inside look at what it must be like to have one's birthday fall on February 29th.  I will admit that it's a little dated now.  I always hate when books feature real actors and bands because by the time a reader picks it up, it's possible that these are long out of fashion, as was the case with this novel published in 2006 (And written, of course, before that.  My favorite part about the novel was the refreshing POV style.  If you take nothing else away from this review, LEAP DAY is worth reading for this alone!


At first, I didn't really "get" this cover, but looking at it again after reading the book, it's actually quite clever.  A calendar takes up most of the cover...only, we're seeing the numbers backwards as though it's being held up to a mirror.  This reflects the way we see the day encompassing the novel from multiple POVs.  I also like the way the 29th of the month stands out, since a model's face fills the square.  She's peering in from the other side of the calendar.

I do wish the title was a little larger; it fades away inside the box.  I do like the way the blurb from Lauren Myracle matches the pink strip at the bottom of the cover (that continues onto the spine and back) featuring the author's name.  The pink also pulls out the color in the model's skin tones and lips.