It’s been a while since I picked up a contemporary young adult novel, and I’ve been meaning to check out some of the incredibly diverse books that have been flooding that genre. I particularly want to explore more books about female/female relationships, because I haven’t read very many books that fit into that category. Ashley Herring Blake’s newest novel, How to Make a Wish fit just that need in my reading list, and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to jump back into some young adult reads.
(From Goodreads) Grace, tough and wise, has nearly given up on wishes, thanks to a childhood spent with her unpredictable, larger-than-life mother. But this summer, Grace meets Eva, a girl who believes in dreams, despite her own difficult circumstances.
One fateful evening, Eva climbs through a window in Grace’s room, setting off a chain of stolen nights on the beach. When Eva tells Grace that she likes girls, Grace’s world opens up and she begins to believe in happiness again.
How to Make a Wish is an emotionally charged portrait of a mother and daughter’s relationship and a heartfelt story about two girls who find each other at the exact right time.
How to Make a Wish was a cute young adult contemporary novel. I think it’s definitely is an important addition to young adult literature in the ways in which it portrays diversity and relationships, and I enjoyed reading it.
What I liked: First of all, I did really like how much diversity was included in this book. The main character is bisexual and falls in love with a biracial lesbian, and I do think each character was represented relatively well. I thought the friendships, particularly that between Grace and Luca, were realistic and dynamic. I also really liked that this book portrayed a narcissistic mother. That’s definitely something I’ve had to deal with (though my personal experience is very different from that in the book), and I always like seeing that in books, because, had I read something like this as a teenager, I think it would have helped me immensely. Overall, I just really found the relationships to be the highlight(s) of the novel, and they were definitely what kept me reading.
What I didn’t like so much: For me, this book felt almost annoyingly cliche at times. Grace’s mother was too over-the-top for my tastes, and I immediately disliked her as a character. The mother hopping from man to man felt like something I’d seen before (and as I write this, I realize it’s the movie John Tucker Must Die). I would have loved to see a narcissistic or toxic mother who isn’t so obviously troubled, and I wish Blake had taken a subtler approach there. I also thought the relationship between Grace and Eva begins way too quickly, which is frustrating, because I can literally pinpoint one scene that, if removed, would have solved that problem (I apologize for my inner editor). So many things about this book felt a bit too familiar: the small beach town setting, the girl with an emotionally absent single mother, and the retro diner to name a few. There were a lot of little quirky details that worked, but most of them fell flat for me.
As I’ve gotten older, my interest in young adult fiction has begun to wane. I still believe that there is no age cutoff for reading, and will probably be reading children’s books long after my hair has begun to sprout more than the occasional gray. But I’ve gotten to the point where I have very little desire to relive being a teenager in any way. Been there, done that. In a lot of ways, this book highlighted that dissonance for me. At one point, a recent historical event was referenced, and it became immediately clear that I’m a full ten years older than these characters. Which is a lot when you’re talking eighteen and twenty-eight. I mention this not because it’s a bad thing, but because it did affect my enjoyment of this novel, and I do want to review it fairly. I think How to Make a Wish is a good book, and while I enjoyed it, I probably would have enjoyed it much more had I been younger.
I honestly think that How to Make a Wish has a lot going for it, and I can see it being a big hit this spring. It’s the kind of book that I think young readers want to read (or the kind of book I’d have wanted to read at seventeen). It’s fun and quirky, but still grounded. If you’re a fan of contemporary young adult fiction, I would recommend checking this one out. It might not be my new favorite book, but I still think it is entirely worth reading.
P.S. I think this book would make a brilliant beach read (or summer read, if you don’t have access to a beach). I read it in just a few hours, so it’s a great book to fly through while taking a break from school or work this summer.
How to Make a Wish will be available in bookstores starting May 2nd. You can order your copy on Amazon now!
This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.