ElevenEleven is a fine little novel about Winnie’s 11th year. She’s dealing with growing up in different ways than her best friend of many years. Imagination starts to give way to boys and fashion.

Nothing earthshattering happens, which is kind of nice. It’s just school, friends, boys, parents, and siblings. It’s full of stuff like a game of truth or dare, makeup and clothes, who’s wearing a bra, playground dynamics, and other things like that. It’s told from Winnie’s point of view, and she’s pretty introspective—analyzing her motives, weighing her decisions, and so on.

The book begins with her March birthday, and each chapter covers an event from each month until March rolls around again. Unfortunately, this conceit leads to a series of vignettes more than a cohesive story—we often don’t learn about the consequences of whatever happened, because weeks have passed between one chapter and the next.

I chose this book because my daughter is an 11 year old 5th grader, so it seems very specifically aimed at her. I didn’t realize I’d missed the first book (named, shockingly, Ten). Perhaps I’d have had an easier time getting into this book if I read the first one, but overall the writing is pretty “in the moment” so the past doesn’t seem to have a huge impact on the current story.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


Although no characters smoke, Winnie’s older sister has a shirt with a small hole in it from when she took a cigarette under peer pressure. Not wanting to actually smoke it, she played around with it and used it to burn a hole in her shirt. This isn’t presented as good or bad. It’s just what happened. My response: Huh. Just not sure what to do with that.


This is mostly a book about friends. A new girl joins their school in 6th grade, which causes Winnie and her best friend, Amanda, to grow apart even more than they were naturally. Overall, this isn’t a volatile thing—at least between Winnie and Amanda. They each start hanging out with different people, Winnie choosing Dinah, a girl who has mostly been an outcast. Instead of a big fight, Winnie and Amanda are still friends—just not best friends anymore.

One thing I liked about the book is that Winnie doesn’t too easily become friends with Dinah—she knows people at school will look down on her for it, plus Dinah can be annoying. But as she analyzes what friendship is, she realizes that she and Dinah are now better friends than she and Amanda are. Winnie is more true to herself when she’s with Dinah, so that’s who she chooses. Eventually, some of the things she found annoying become some of the things she likes.


Winnie lives with both parents, a younger brother, and an older sister. The family dynamics are fairly realistic—the parents are occasionally annoying and embarrassing, but overall supportive. The little brother is often annoying, but not in an exaggerated way. The older sister both loves and wants to ditch Winnie, depending on the situation. The sister’s boyfriend is generally pretty accepting of the younger siblings—he actually seems like a nice guy.


Boys become a Big Deal in this book, but more conceptually than as actual human beings. There are crushes, near stalking, and the usual kerfuffle around “going with” a boy.

The school counselor asks Winnie to ask a certain boy to skate with her during the girls’ pick. She really doesn’t want to because he’s gross and rude, but she feels she ought to do the “nice thing” because an adult has asked it of her. Even if no one else knows she didn’t do the nice thing, she’ll know and feel bad about it. So she asks him and briefly pays a social price, but overall there are few repercussions from this.

On Valentine’s Day, Winnie, after making a fool of herself, finally asks her crush to go with her (the only girl to do so), and he says yes. Pretty much all the girls find some boy to go with for Valentine’s Day, although these relationships seem to last about as long as lunch time.


Honestly, I wasn’t crazy about this book when I was reading it. It kind of bored me and I didn’t care that much about Winnie. But as I started writing this review, I realized that there was more going on here than I was aware of while reading. I’m really not the target audience here, which is fine—many kids’ books are good for all ages, but this isn’t really one of them. But I’ll bet my daughter will identify with Winnie and enjoy this book. And maybe it will even help her a little when she’s dealing with the social dynamics of 5th grade. Winnie makes a pretty decent role model overall. I’d recommend this book for ages 9 to maybe 12.

Daughter update:

My daughter enjoyed the book, but she’s definitely not planning to look to Winnie as a role model—which is kind of funny, since I said the exact opposite. She doesn’t think Winnie handles some situations very well (such as eating a raw egg to try to show she’s tough), which is a valid point. She liked the friendship between Winnie and Dinah (which is also where I think Winnie does serve as a decent role model), and really didn’t understand what Amanda saw in the new girl she becomes friends with.


Eleven by Lauren Myracle
Book 2 in the Winnie Years series
Published in 2004 by Puffin Books
Borrowed from Booksfree



  1. Stephanie says:

    I’m stuck on the school counselor who requested that an 11-year-old girl ask a boy to skate with her. Wow! That strikes me as highly unprofessional behavior from someone who should be aware of where this age group is developmentally: It’s a big enough step for Winnie to ask the boy she actually likes, let alone one she finds “gross and rude.” I’d expect the counselor to consider the awkwardness of this new kind of social interaction over the urge to ask Winnie to do something nice.

    • ayvalentine says:

      That’s a good point. That scene bothered me, but I couldn’t fully put my finger on why – I think you nailed it when you point out that this is essentially asking Winnie to take two huge steps at once. It might not have been so bad if this weren’t the first time these kids were put in the situation of a girls’ choice couples skate. The lack of professionalism from the counselor did occur to me – it seemed like way too much to ask and that the counselor should have known better.

Speak Your Mind