by Chelsea Sedoti
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Genres: Young Adult
Source: Bookish First
I received an advance review copy of this book from Bookish First. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
What if you could ask for anything- and get it?
In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.
Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.
“Helping people is good, but it’s also a two-way street. You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved.”
OK, remember how I just said I don’t like magical realism? Turns out, this is the kind of magical realism I like, the kind that borders on urban fantasy a bit.
In the desert town of Madison, everyone gets one wish on their 18th birthday, and pretty much all of Madison revolves around wishing. So much so that no one asks kids what they want to be when they grow up; instead they ask what they’re going to wish for. Unlike every other kid in town, Eldon hasn’t decided on his wish. The book counts down the thirty days before Eldon’s wish day, interspersed with “wish diaries” – recountings of other characters’ wishes and the outcomes that Eldon is compiling in order to try to figure out what he wants to wish for.
Eldon is seriously unlikeable. I think, towards the end, that he did realize this and start taking steps to, well, not be such a huge jerk, but it really prevented me from connecting with him as a character at the start of the book. Eldon is, basically, a screw-up, who, if he somehow manages into stumbling his way into doing the right thing, it’s for all the wrong reasons. I’d like to think that the jerkiness is the result his sister’s recent tragedy, but it seems, from things the other characters say, that he’s been that way his entire life. His aimless selfishness is a reflection of the town around him, though, which may have been the author’s intent.
The main plot is pretty much as aimless as Eldon. He hangs with his dad, gets badgered by his mom to wish for money, interviews townspeople, and basically acts like an ass to everyone, if he’s not getting into actual physical fights with them. But, still, I did feel drawn to come back and finish the book every time I had to put it down. I wanted to find out what Eldon’s wish would be, and if he’d actually grow the heck up.
There’s several weird side plots. The first is that nobody in Madison believes in God, because they have wishes. Oh, except for one girl, who meets a Mormon missionary in Las Vegas, but pretty much the whole town makes fun of her for that. At one point, she tries to give the main character a copy of the Book of Mormon, and at another point asks them to take her to an LDS temple while they’re in Las Vegas. I don’t understand the assertion that having wishes means that you can’t believe in God, and the whole subplot felt weird and forced. The other was that one gay character decides to wish away his attraction to men, and then later meets someone who he realized he would’ve fallen in love with previously, except now the relationship won’t work because he has no romantic feelings. Though I’m not that familiar with the ace/aro community, this struck me as something that could be hurtful to them.
Overall, while I did like this book, there were enough problems that I can’t give it four stars. I will probably pick up the author’s next release, though, because I thought the idea and writing style were excellent, just not my taste for the execution.