By Ekta R. Garg
February 1, 2018
Genre: YA magical realism
Date released: January 1, 2018
Rated: Binge it! / 5 stars
Just before his eighteenth birthday, a teen must make a difficult choice: what to wish for. In a forgotten town in the Mojave Desert, everyone gets one wish and that wish always comes true. Given the unanticipated results of decades of wishes, however, the teen faces his birthday with dread instead of excitement. Author Chelsea Sedoti delights and surprises readers with this interesting premise in her newest novel As You Wish.
Eldon Wilkes is gearing up for his birthday; his eighteenth birthday, in fact. For most teens across the country, turning 18 means becoming an adult. In Madison, Nevada, turning 18 means getting to make a wish and knowing it will come true. In theory that idea would thrill any person. The residents of Madison, though, live with the reality of the fact that while their wishes may have come true, that certainly doesn’t mean the end to their problems.
It doesn’t help that Eldon’s mother expects him to wish for money. Months earlier Eldon’s little sister, Ebba, got into a terrible accident and is in hospice care in Las Vegas. Eldon’s mother is convinced that with enough money the family can hire the world’s best physicians to treat Ebba and make her better, even though the doctors say Ebba’s brain no longer functions. Everyone, it seems, has accepted the truth, except for Eldon’s mother.
His father doesn’t put that kind of pressure on him, but he doesn’t openly support Eldon. As the target of a different wish long ago, Eldon’s father is fated to support his mother for the rest of his life. Again, in theory, it seems like a great concept—never-ending validation from a spouse. In real life, Eldon finds his father’s inability to counter his mother exasperating.
What makes matters worse is that Eldon has recently suffered from a more common problem: his first breakup. His ex-girlfriend starts dating one of his football teammates who had the opportunity on his own eighteenth birthday to wish to be the best player on the team. Eldon’s always been the best—the best player with the most beautiful girl in school on his arm. Now he’s struggling at practice and trying to figure out what to wish for. When a teacher suggests a research project that entails asking people in Madison what they wished for, Eldon hopes hearing other people’s stories will give him some inspiration. With less than a month left before his own wish day, he’s going to need all the help he can get.
Author Chelsea Sedoti uses her own experience of living in the Mojave Desert to her full advantage. As she describes the blowing of the sand and the searing heat, readers will feel the grit in their own eyes and search for a cool glass of water. The setting of the town, in fact, offers the perfect juxtaposition between its day-to-day sameness of physical landscape and the life-changing wishes of the town’s residents.
In addition to the harsh beauty of the landscape, Sedoti gives readers well-rounded characters that fit right in the target audience of the book. Young adult readers will identify with the evergreen concept of wanting a wish to come true. It also fits into the classic teenage idea that one is invincible. When one’s invincibility is challenged over decades by wishes that tend to disappoint, however, it gets replaced by a melancholic optimism; the teens of Madison know the likely outcome of their lives—staying there forever—yet they keep wishing, and hoping, anyway.
More astute readers may guess what Eldon wishes for, but the ride to that day is so fun that even those who anticipate the drops and twists will enjoy it. While Sedoti could have scaled back on the profanity just a touch, no doubt she’s using it to speak to today’s teens. Her biggest strength in the book comes in the fact that Eldon doesn’t find redemption from any of his problems right away. He struggles with everything, and his struggles knock him down over and over. Sedoti’s approach will refresh readers and, hopefully, remind them that life really isn’t as simple as wishing for something to happen.
I recommend readers Binge As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti.