As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
Have you ever thought about how much you said, “I wish…”?
It’s funny because I hadn’t; not until just a few weeks before I read this book. Coincidence? Maybe.
Either way, whether you think about how much you wish for something, or not, this book will force you to do so.
Wishing never gets you anywhere. Except, of course, in Madison, it does. If you’re lucky,
that is. Wishing either gets you everything or nothing. And it’s a gamble everyone is willing to take.
Welcome to Madison, a small, secluded town situated in the Mojave Desert. Little goes on in Madison. People come and go, passing the establishment without hesitation. The people in Madison don’t mind either. They encourage passers-through to pass through—as quickly as possible. Madison holds a secret, only known to those who were born and raised there. Everyone on their eighteenth birthday gets to ask one wish in the magical wishing cave. The wishes aren’t a hoax, they come true. However, wishing isn’t quite so simple, as Eldon comes to discover. With his upcoming eighteenth birthday, he has no clue what to wish for. It’s unusual for Madison kids to not have an idea what they want—beauty, popularity, position, intelligence, wealth—but for someone like Eldon, who has experienced more of the dark sides of life, wishing isn’t quite so simple.
Several major themes stand out within Eldon’s character alone. One of the main ones includes this “dark side,” or his experience with processing grief from losing his sister. Even though she’s still alive, she’s left brain dead after being struck by a vehicle on her bike. Having been close with his sister, Eldon is still trying to figure out how to feel about her situation. He can’t wish for her to heal because of the stipulations put on wishing. Yet, he doesn’t want to have to let her go.
When someone dies, it doesn’t just take them. It takes a piece of everyone who ever loved them and everyone they ever loved.
His grief is not the only thing factoring into Eldon’s identity crisis.
Why can’t I come up with things I care about? What’s wrong with me?
When the reader meets Eldon, it is immediately clear that there is some indecisiveness in his character. Externally, he seems cool and confident, yet when there is a glimpse beneath the surface, it’s obvious that he is enduring a lot of emotional turmoil.
What I’m saying is, these days, I’m nothing special. And that messes with you, you know? Makes you think maybe you weren’t that special to begin with. Makes you wonder what you’re actually good at. These days, I walk around with a big question mark over my head.
Feeling replaced as other classmates get their wishes granted before him, Eldon finds himself girlfriendless, no longer the star of the football team, and no longer popular. In his quest to discover who he is and what he wants, he also begins to question everything that he knows about himself, about wishing, and about the town of Madison.
It is through this process that he understands the importance of a wish. Eldon’s transition from adolescence to adulthood becomes apparent in how he realizes wishes aren’t so simple; all wishes have consequences.
“How many other people you think keep quiet about their wishes?” Merrill asks.
I’m wondering the same thing. The residents of Madison are so focused on keeping secrets from outsiders, I never stopped to consider what we’ve been keeping from each other.
The struggle with human nature and selfishness in all of us, is represented by the city of Madison. Instead of thinking of one another, most everyone used their wish for themselves. This approach to wishing is supported and nearly enforced by the town’s mayor. In the end, most everyone ends up miserable.
Maybe dissatisfaction is human nature. Maybe there’s no running from it.
The fact that everyone in Madison gets to make a wish means they get the opportunity to change something about themselves or their situation to their liking. By doing so, they are never pushed to learn how to reach a goal on their own, the concept of sacrifice, or to look within themselves.
“Accomplishment comes from toil,” Othello says. “Growth is a result of sacrifice.”
Let’s go through the things I liked:
#1 There are a lot of teachable points throughout As You Wish, many I deem beneficial for young readers. They aren’t necessarily easy discussion points either. However, for someone around the same ages as Eldon and his friends, they might really relate.
#2 The conflict in the main character Eldon, as well as the major growth he goes through is impressive. He grows from a self-centered (unlikeable) teen to a conscious, considerate (and likable) young man.
#3 As You Wish forces the reader to contemplate contentment within oneself. I found myself reflecting many times about how much “I wish” for things in my life, but forget to realize how much I already have.
Things I didn’t like:
#1 I felt there were some loose ends in terms of the wishing cave itself. It’s never told how it got there, by who, and how it was discovered. I felt discontent as it was supposed to be a major “issue” which was taken care of rather easily. The entire book I was waiting for this reveal, but it never occurred.
#2 There is an attempted-suicide by one of the characters that I think could have been approached differently. Instead of the character realizing his worth after the fact, he trudges around, never really resolving anything. I felt that it could have been a better teaching point for readers, yet the opportunity was left untouched.
#3 Overall, this book has a rather depressive tone. I don’t expect all books to end happily ever after, but I felt like there wasn’t a reprieve, even in the end.
#4 I don’t think it’s OK to have so much swearing and inappropriate content in a YA read. I noticed the amount of language right from the get-go and found it distasteful and inappropriate for this genre.