13 Gifts
Goodreads ratings
4.24 / 5

"13 Gifts" Summary

By Wendy Mass

fantasy | 341 pages | Published in 2011

Wendy Mass turns to another magical birthday: 13!When Tara, a self-proclaimed shrinking violet, steals the school mascot, a goat, in order to make some friends with the popular crowd and gets caught, she gets herself in a heap of trouble. In addition, her parents decide that instead of taking her on their summer trip to Madagascar to study the courtship rituals of the Bamboo Lemur, she must go stay with her aunt, uncle, and bratty cousin Emily St. Claire in Willow Falls. Tara thinks it's a good time to start over; she'll be turning 13 after all, so she might as well make the best of it and perhaps even attempt to break out of her shell (in a non-criminal manner). What Tara doesn't know is that this charmed town has something big in store for her on her 13th birthday. It's not a typical birthday. But then again, nothing is Willow Falls is exactly typical!


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A girl named Tara receives mysterious gifts for the thirteen days leading up to her thirteenth birthday, each with its own magical power.


"13 Gifts" is a captivating young adult novel written by Wendy Mass. This heartwarming story takes readers on a journey with the main character, Tara Brennan, as she navigates the challenges of being sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt in a small town called Willow Falls.

Brief Synopsis

Tara Brennan, a thirteen-year-old girl from New Jersey, is less than thrilled when she is sent to spend the summer in Willow Falls with her aunt. She is disappointed to be away from her friends and feels like an outcast in this unfamiliar town. However, Tara soon discovers that Willow Falls holds many secrets and magical surprises.

As Tara settles into her new surroundings, she becomes entangled in a mysterious plot involving 13 unusual gifts. Each gift has a specific purpose and must be given to a person who needs it most. Tara, along with her newfound friends, must unravel the clues and complete this important task before time runs out.

Main Characters

Character NameDescription
Tara BrennanThe protagonist of the story, a thirteen-year-old girl sent to spend the summer in Willow Falls. She is initially skeptical but grows to appreciate the magic of the town.
Aunt JTara's eccentric aunt who lives in Willow Falls. She is the catalyst for Tara's adventure and provides guidance throughout the story.
DavidTara's neighbor and friend in Willow Falls. He joins Tara in her quest to deliver the 13 gifts and uncovers his own personal growth along the way.
Angelina D'AngeloA girl Tara meets in Willow Falls who becomes her close friend. Together, they navigate the challenges of their summer adventure.
Leo FitzpatrickAnother resident of Willow Falls who is involved in the mystery surrounding the 13 gifts. He guides Tara on her quest and reveals the importance of the gifts.

Summary of Story Points

Chapter 1-5: The Introduction to Willow Falls

Tara arrives in Willow Falls and meets her Aunt J for the first time. She is introduced to the quirky town and its inhabitants, including David, Angelina, and Leo. Tara learns about the legend of the 13 gifts and begins her journey to unravel the mystery.

Chapter 6-10: The First Few Gifts

Tara and her friends discover the first few gifts and their intended recipients. They encounter challenges along the way but persevere in their quest. Tara starts to feel a sense of belonging in Willow Falls and finds joy in helping others.

Chapter 11-15: Unexpected Twists and Turns

As Tara and her friends continue their mission, they encounter unexpected obstacles and surprises. They must overcome their doubts and fears to fulfill their roles in the gift-giving process. Tara discovers the true power of friendship and the importance of embracing one's true self.

Chapter 16-20: The Final Gifts

Tara and her friends approach the final gifts, each one more significant than the last. They face their biggest challenges yet and must rely on their newfound strengths and abilities. The town of Willow Falls comes together to support Tara and her friends in their mission.

Main Events

  • Tara's arrival in Willow Falls and her meeting with Aunt J.
  • Tara's introduction to the legend of the 13 gifts and her decision to partake in the adventure.
  • Tara's friendship with David, Angelina, and Leo, who join her in the quest.
  • The discovery and delivery of the first few gifts.
  • The challenges and obstacles the group faces along the way.
  • Tara's personal growth and sense of belonging in Willow Falls.
  • The final gift-giving mission and the town's support.

Themes and Insights

The Power of Friendship

Throughout the story, the importance of friendship is highlighted. Tara's friends provide support, encouragement, and guidance during her journey. They work together as a team, relying on each other's strengths to overcome obstacles. The bonds they form demonstrate that true friendship can help individuals grow and achieve their goals.

Embracing Individuality

Tara's experience in Willow Falls teaches her the value of embracing her individuality. She learns to appreciate her unique qualities and talents, realizing that they contribute to the success of her mission. The story emphasizes the importance of self-acceptance and the beauty of being true to oneself.

Acts of Kindness and Generosity

The concept of giving and helping others is a central theme in "13 Gifts." Tara and her friends are tasked with delivering gifts to those who need them most. This highlights the significance of acts of kindness and generosity in making a positive impact on others' lives. The story encourages readers to find joy in helping others and spreading positivity.

Reader's Takeaway

"13 Gifts" is a delightful and heartwarming novel that explores themes of friendship, self-discovery, and the power of kindness. Wendy Mass skillfully weaves together a captivating story filled with magic, mystery, and relatable characters. Young readers will be inspired by Tara's journey and the lessons she learns along the way.


"13 Gifts" by Wendy Mass is an enchanting tale that takes readers on a magical adventure in the town of Willow Falls. Through the eyes of the main character, Tara Brennan, readers experience the power of friendship, the importance of embracing individuality, and the joy of helping others. This book is sure to captivate young readers and leave them with valuable life lessons.

13 Gifts FAQ

  1. What is the genre of '13 Gifts'?

    The genre of '13 Gifts' is young adult fiction.

  2. Who is the author of '13 Gifts'?

    '13 Gifts' is written by Wendy Mass.

  3. What is the main theme of '13 Gifts'?

    The main theme of '13 Gifts' is personal growth and self-discovery.

  4. What is the plot of '13 Gifts'?

    The plot of '13 Gifts' revolves around a girl named Tara who is sent to spend the summer with her aunt in a small town, where she learns about the power of friendship and the importance of embracing change.

  5. Is '13 Gifts' part of a series?

    Yes, '13 Gifts' is part of the Willow Falls series by Wendy Mass.

  6. What age group is '13 Gifts' suitable for?

    '13 Gifts' is suitable for readers aged 8 to 12, although it can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

  7. Are there any sequels to '13 Gifts'?

    Yes, '13 Gifts' is followed by 'Finally' and 'Graceful,' which continue the story of the characters in the Willow Falls series.

  8. Is '13 Gifts' a standalone book?

    While '13 Gifts' can be read as a standalone book, it is best enjoyed as part of the Willow Falls series, where the characters and their stories are further developed.

  9. What are some similar books to '13 Gifts'?

    Some similar books to '13 Gifts' include 'The Candymakers' by Wendy Mass and 'The Penderwicks' series by Jeanne Birdsall.

  10. Is '13 Gifts' a New York Times bestseller?

    Yes, '13 Gifts' is a New York Times bestselling book.