As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti
Published by Sourcebooks Fire and expected to release Jan. 2018
Genre: Magical Realism
So! Hmm. I, umm. I don’t know, y’all. I’m getting really tired of writing reviews that are somewhere between good and bad. Maybe I’m the problem. I swear I’m only requesting books I’m sure I’ll like! And then, I don’t know. Ugh.
I will say I really enjoyed it for a while. The first chapter hooked me. There is A LOT to love about this book, but I was left feeling very “meh” about it. So… another pro/con list it is!
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.
I was immediately intrigued by this idea. Because while wish-granting is not even kind of a new idea, I hadn’t seen it like this before. I loved the concept of a whole town making wishes. Before I’d even received the book, I found myself thinking about how that may affect a town. Would they turn wishing into an obsession? A religion? Yes. And I love that shit. Because I’m a firm believer in everyone having something they put all their faith in. For these people, it’s wishing, though wishing seems to have ruined most of their lives.
I think there’s something amazing, too, about the age eighteen. These are kids who have to make the biggest decision of their lives. I know that my dreams and motivations at eighteen were nothing like what they are now, ten years later. What if we had to stick with the choices we made at this insane time where we feel like an adult but are really a child? Well, things would suck. I dig that.
Now I’m going to tell you right away that I’m not in the majority here. I read the other reviews and people really don’t like Eldon, our narrator. I have expressed on many occasions that I don’t need to like a character to like a book. And while I don’t like Eldon and wouldn’t want to hang out with him, I understand him. I think that’s what is important. He has clear motivations for being the asshole he is. His confusion and angst make perfect sense.
His best friend Merrill (I can’t with these names, y’all) is great. Hilarious and exactly the weird little conspiracy theorist you expect to live in the middle of nowhere.
The people of the town have such horrific stories and so much regret and I think their brokenness is absolutely beautiful.
In preparation for his wish, Eldon gathers stories about people in the town and their wishes. Everyone pretty much knows everyone’s wishes, but he gets the backstories, the why’s and the wherefore’s. These chapters change voice and are, for me, the best writing in the book. A couple of times I said profanities aloud, reading these chapters. They’re beautiful, and they are the part of the book I will remember now that it’s over.
This is a BIG one for me. Women are not well-represented in As You Wish. The guys make shallow wishes, yeah. (Eldo’s dad as an example.) But we also see a lot of men who made wishes that, while not necessarily good decisions, make sense. We only even get the perspective of a few women, and most are pretty absurd. Girls have dreams outside of being prettiest. Girls have dreams outside of making boys fall in love with them. We really only get two girls who seem to make admirable wishes? And one is one of the blandest characters ever and one is a little obnoxious and Eldon talks shit on her constantly.
There’s also a moment that could potentially really alienate asexuals, and I can’t stand that.
It’s a long book, but I’d have a pretty hard time telling you things that happen in it. There are very few actual events, which makes it really easy to put down. The most exciting parts, for me, were the parts from the past. There just wasn’t enough really moving things forward in the present.
Because of this, a lot all happens at once. And Eldon flips all at once, and it makes his change a little hard to grasp. Does Eldon grow? I mean, technically, yeah. It’s not so much growth as an abrupt and complete reversal of who he was for the first 350 pages. It didn’t feel very realistic, and it left me feeling unfulfilled.
I’m a person who needs closure. Not necessarily emotional closure, which we kind of? get here. But I really wanted to know SOMETHING about why the cave granted wishes. This is the hardest part to talk about without spoilers, because I can’t tell you what I WANTED to happen without telling you it doesn’t happen. So I’m just going to say I think there was a lot of cool stuff behind the concept that could have been explored, and wasn’t.