As You Wish: A Review

cover art for As You Wish by Chelsea SedotiWhat if you can make one wish and know that it will come true?

That’s the question Eldon has to answer as his eighteenth birthday approaches. Eldon’s small town, Madison, is unremarkable except for one thing: every person in town gets one wish on their eighteenth birthday and that wish always comes true.

But Eldon has seen enough wishes go wrong to know that wishing for something to make you happy isn’t the same as being happy. As his birthday approaches Eldon will have to decide if one wish can secure his future happiness. Or, if he’s smart enough and makes the right wish, maybe it can fix all the broken wishes that came before in As You Wish (2018) by Chelsea Sedoti.

Find it on Bookshop.

Sedoti delivers a haunting story with fantasy elements in her sophomore novel.

With his birthday approaching, Eldon grapples with his own desires for a wish (getting his girlfriend back) and pressures from his mother to wish for enough money to pay his sister’s medical bills and maybe help the entire family. Eldon’s first person narration is interspersed with stories from the town of other wishes. These anecdotes include Eldon’s mother who wished, against all advice and reason, for her high school crush to love her forever–even when she falls out of love with him, and other wishes with disastrous results.

As You Wish is a bleak, claustrophobic novel. Eldon, like a lot of people in town, feels trapped. Unlike others Eldon isn’t so sure a wish can help. His struggle with that moves the novels forward and has the potential to change the entire town’s future. Despite the high stakes, the bleak backdrop and meandering tone make this a slow read. Eldon’s anger and distance as a narrator further remove readers from the immediacy of the story.

Possible Pairings: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, When We Collided by Emery Lord, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes, Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BookExpo 2017*

My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney SalterRemember Jennifer Grey from Dirty Dancing? Back then she was a cute young actress with a rather distinct nose that gave her a unique face. In the 1990s she had a nose job that so altered her appearance that she was unrecognizable with the result that her career was arguably over. I found a site with two of the most unflattering pictures of Grey I have ever seen, but they illustrate my point. The change is so great that it’s hard to say what the nose job actually accomplished because the before and after photos look like different people.

While reading My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters (2009) by Sydney Salter (find it on Bookshop), I kept thinking of one thing. That thing was Jennifer Grey’s nose job and how it totally changed her life in a not-so-great way.

For soon-to-be-senior Jory Michaels, it all comes down to her nose. Good old, Great-Grandpa Lessinger’s famous nose. The one Jory never grew into. The one that makes people ask her beautiful parents if Jory was adopted. It wouldn’t matter so much if Jory was some brilliant scholar who’d written six novels, created her own web-based business, and spoke fluent Chinese.

But Jory doesn’t do any of those things.

No matter how desperately she wants to be one of the beautiful people, or at least one of the smart people, or even just an athletic person; Jory is none of those things. Instead, she is the mediocre sheep in a family of beauty and talent. All, Jory is certain, because of her big nose–another outlier in a family with cute, small noses (except for Great-Grandpa Lessinger).

Like Jennifer Grey, Jory is convinced that a nose job will solve her problems and ultimately make her life better in every possible way. She will be smarter and prettier, her family will appreciate her the way they worship her little brother, and her gorgeous crush will finally realize that she is perfect for him. In other words, with a new nose, Jory will be as perfect as everyone else in her life.

To guarantee that she and “Super Schnoz” will part ways before September, Jory takes a summer job as a cake delivery person to fund her cosmetic surgery. She also begins a nice nose notebook to be ready for the big day.

It seems like everything is going Jory’s way until an unlikely acquaintance, an unfortunate driving mishap or two . . . or three, and other (natural) disasters force Jory to rethink everything she thought she knew about her nose, herself, and the perfect people she wanted so badly to emulate.

Set in Reno, Nevada My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters offers an interesting perspective on cosmetic surgery. Her hyperbolic fantasies about Super Schnoz and her new dream nose illustrate the irrational hopes Jory has pinned to the possibility of plastic surgery. At the same time, as the story progresses Jory begins to realize that there might be more to reinventing herself than restructuring her nose. That thread, set against the backdrop of friend-drama, and the social-climbing ambitions of her ever-dieting mother, gives this ostensibly quick read a fair amount of depth.

I enjoyed a lot of this book. At times the characters read younger than I would have expected for sixteen and seventeen-year-olds, but that likely says more about who I was at that age than anything else. Jory also reminded me a lot of Georgia Nicholson with her singular focus on boys but in a far less annoying way. I also had issue with the way friendships were treated. It must be the latin in me but I would have held a grudge a lot longer than Jory (and other characters in books I’ve read recently), but again that’s probably just me.

I loved Jory’s humor throughout the narrative, which made her lack of self-esteem at the beginning of the novel bearable. As part of a mother-daughter jewelery making duo, I also loved that beading came up in the story and was handled so realistically. At the start of the novel I will admit that I was not sure I could like Jory as a character, but by the end of the book I not only liked her, I was proud of her. My only disappointment was that the book didn’t go on a little longer so I could spend more time with this new and improved heroine. Beyond that, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters is a clever, humorous book about how finding beauty sometimes involves more introspection than anything else.

Possible Pairings: You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle, Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen Headley, Skinny by Donna Crooner, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, Fix by Leslie Margolis, The Book of Love by Lynn Weingarten