I’ve always loved series books. My childhood librarian, am imposing Scottish woman with a thick accent and a heart of gold, used to set the latest Baby-Sitter’s Club titles aside for me because she knew how much I loved them. From there, I graduated to Lloyd Alexander’s The Prydrain Chronicles, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and much to the chagrin of my English professor father, Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who… series. My least favorite thing about books has always been that I’d get to know (and love!) characters, only to have to say goodbye to them at the end of the book. With series books, I get to hear more about their adventures and watch them grow as the author writes more and more details about their lives.
My favorite YA/Tween series has long been Wendy Mass’ Willow Falls sequence. The books take place in the tiny town of Willow Falls which is more magical than most of its residents realize. The overlapping plots weave the story of a handful of middle school students with a slightly quirky, definitely mysterious woman named Angela. Each character has his or her own unique coming-of-age experience orchestrated by Angela – Leo and Amanda learn about the importance of friendship, Tara discovers that asking for help isn’t a weakness, and Rory realizes that the responsibilities of being older aren’t quiet what she was hoping for. Although these books fall firmly in the category of magical realism, (time travel isn’t something you find in any small town I know of!) they’re also remarkable because the characters and their interactions are so incredibly realistic. I’ve known and taught kids just like these – kids who are smart and kind, but who struggle with trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into their community and the larger world.
In 2013, Wendy Mass published The Last Present which was meant to be the final book in the series. But the outcry from her fans (myself included!) was so loud that she relented and wrote one more, Graceful which gave the whole series a very satisfying sense of closure. Normally I don’t like books that tie up every single loose end with a happy bow, but in this case, I’m so grateful to know what these characters are doing ten, twenty, and even fifty years after the series has finished!
I frequently recommend Mass’ books to young readers, but I also recommend them for older teens and adults who still enjoy whimsical writing and happy endings. All of the books are available at UDPL.