[I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley in return for an honest review.]
Imagine a town named Madison in the desert where everyone gets one wish. On the night that they turn eighteen, they’re allowed to make one wish for almost anything they want. There are only a couple rules. One is that no one can know about the town, so you can’t wish to become the next international superstar. The other rules are basically the same as the Genie’s from Aladdin. No wishing for more wishes and you can’t bring someone back from the dead.
Already my mind went to some terrifying conclusions with this, conclusions that (to be fair) As You Wish doesn’t shy away from.
So. Let’s talk jackassery. From the very beginning, As You Wish got me thinking about what would I do if I were in the main character’s shoes.
The jackassery that I mentioned above comes from our main protagonist and eyes into the world, Eldon. He’s jaded and bitter, carrying around a lot of the tragedy that comes with growing up in a town like Madison. Imagine the kids from The Fault in Our Stars, but without the optimism and you’ve got Eldon. Which, to my mind, makes him a much more relateable teen.
So fair warning, if you can’t handle anyone who’s bitter and complains a lot, then you’re not going to be able to get into this book.
For me though, this worked. Eldon is a prick, but that makes sense in the context of the emotional baggage that he’s carrying around, combined with the confusing times of being a teenager, and then multiplied by the fact that the most important decision he will ever have to make in his life is coming up in a matter of weeks.
I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil anything, but As You Wish is a book of tiny tragedies and triumphs. What would have been a fairy tale in another novel or a romantic comedy with hilarious shenanigans is a surprisingly sober look at what the reality of a town like this would be like.
There are these little interludes within the novel that tell the stories of what people wished for previously and I loved these breaks. They were my favourite part of the book and I think I would read an entire book of just these little stories.
Wishing comes with consequences. Being given something at all comes with consequences.
The true story of As You Wish is learning how to live with the choices you’ve made in the past and whether or not those choices will define you.
There are times when the novel takes on a tone that wouldn’t be out of place in Welcome to Nightvale, but As You Wish doesn’t sink into the absurd or the dreamy. It holds people accountable for their actions and that’s something that I really appreciated.
Eldon, for example, is someone we can empathize with if we choose to, but the characters around him aren’t going to let him off the hook if he’s too much of a jerk. The wishes that people make which are harmful or which push the boundaries of consent don’t come without consequences either.
If you’re looking for YA novel that doesn’t focus around the romance of its main characters and has a unique presence to boot, I can’t recommend As You Wish highly enough.
Terrifying thought experiment? Engrossing YA novel? Either way, I’m into it.